"The Camouflage Closet," a short documentary directed by Stanford medical student Michael Nedelman, offers a snapshot into the lives of nine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) veterans and their personal stories involving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma and recovery. The documentary will premiere tomorrow night in San Francisco as part of the National Queer Arts Festival.
Discussing the importance of making the film, Nedelman said, "Many of us rely on two things to cope with traumatic experiences: community and identity. In the military, this was actively suppressed for LGBT service members. Even though [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] DADT has ended, we will continue to see the impacts of anti-LGBT policies, and it is becoming clear that there is much that can be done to address it."
In the brief Q&A below, he talks about the motivation behind the project and what impact he hopes the film will have on the public:
What was the catalyst for creating the film?
The film came about fortuitously, like it was waiting to be shot. There were many things that led us to create the film: I bumped into Andrew V. Ly, now the film's composer, on my first day as a Californian. We became fast friends, exchanged clips of our own work, and attended an arts workshop together called "Creating Queer Communities," where we began putting together a proposal for a project that would combine our interests in art and advocacy, as well as my interests in health and medicine. We thought about the LGBT veteran community as something we were very interested in, but there was so little information out there—only 18 empirical studies had ever been published in peer-reviewed journals.
Meanwhile, little did we know that Heliana Ramirez, LISW, was facilitating one of only 15 known LGBT groups at VA hospitals in the country—right here in Menlo Park! Moreover, she had done digital storytelling projects in the past, so I'd say our interests were uncommonly well aligned. Finding the right collaborators, having such a supportive VA, and meeting a group of nine inspiring, artistic LGBT veterans signaled to me that this project was a special one—a unique opportunity that, at least for now, would be difficult to produce anywhere else.
What impact do you hope the film will have on audiences? For example, is the goal to raise awareness, amplify the voice of an underrepresented group, etc?
We think this project has many important audiences, including other people in the LGBT, veteran, and medical communities. We really hope it will foster discussion about opportunities for research, growth, and advocacy in addressing LGBT veteran health issues. This summer, Heliana and I will be working on a teaching guide to accompany clips from the film.
But first and foremost, we used a "video voice" model—which puts cameras into people's hands—as an empowering tool for participants to share their stories in a structured group setting. At the heart of the methods we used to create this film are the goals of positive change for marginalized communities, and understanding the challenges and strengths of these communities.
Tickets for the premiere can be purchased online.