“Right at the beginning, it was a conversation about making a queer South African film. We felt that this was something we wanted to do that nobody else was doing, but specifically, I think what was important to us was to bring together a story about same-sex desire within a traditional African context,” director John Trengove says of the genesis of his South African Oscar entry, The Wound.

Following a recent Awardsline screening of the film, Trengove appeared with star Niza Jay to discuss the drama centering on Xolani (Nakhan Touré), a lonely factory worker who travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of young men into adulthood. During the Xhosa custom, Xolani finds that he’s able to be himself, catching up with an old lover, and holding a mirror to young Kwanda (Jay) in terms of who he is really is.

“There’s an idea that’s been popularized in the last few years, which is that homosexuality is un-African, that it somehow presents a threat to traditional African culture,” the director explained. “This is a very strange notion, and we felt that we wanted to make a film that not necessarily railed against this idea, but went to the crux of those notions.”

During the conversation, Jay discussed his thought process as he prepared to audition for the role of Kwanda. “The very interesting question for me when this [role] came along was, Do I go there as myself? You can see how I’m dressed—this has always been me. Or, do I go there as a conventional actor? Do I just go there in jeans and a T-shirt so they just see this blank canvas they can paint over?” the actor remembered. “I didn’t have time to change though, when the time of the audition came, so I went there literally in a black crop top, black, ribbed jeans and a black floor-length coat. And I thought, Okay, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let’s make it work.”

To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with The Wound director John Trengove and star Niza Jay, click above.