An Indian writer/director previously known for romantic drama Aadukalam and 2007’s Ruthless Man, Vetri Maaran brought his latest film, Interrogation, to this year’s Venice Film Festival, where it was met with a warm response and was honored with the Amnesty International Italia Award and the Venice Horizons Award.

Now Interrogation is India’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language film. The pic tells the haunting story of a group of immigrants who are detained by local police, tortured, and coerced into admitting guilt to a crime which they did not commit. Even after a policeman from their hometown speaks on their behalf, leading the men to be set free, the film’s subjects remain the unwitting victims of societal indifference and a system that seeks to silence them.

Based on the novel Lock Up by M. Chandrakumar, the critically and commercially well-received docudrama presents issues of brutality and corruption which are sadly familiar and resonant to a contemporary American audience. If Interrogation is nominated, it will be the fourth film representing India at the Academy Awards— 16 years after Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan—and if it wins, the first film to take home Oscar gold for the country.

Following a recent Awardsline screening, Maaran joined executive producers Aalif Surti and Guneet Amarpeet Kaur for a candid conversation about the production process for Interrogation. Here Maaran addresses his approach to working with actors in emotionally difficult moments, as well as his considered visual approach to on-screen violence.