Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit can be a difficult film to watch and was surely a difficult film to make. But her reasons for taking on the biographical drama of the 1967 Detroit race riots were always clear, allowing her to persist while wading through emotionally difficult terrain.

Deadline

“If you think of race as the third rail of this country, I think it’s something that is perhaps incumbent and imperative for all of us to try and do something about,” Bigelow told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. during our annual The Contenders awards-season event last month. “This was my own small way of contributing to that conversation, in the hope that there could be change, in the hope that we could heal.”

In a panel discussion featuring Bigelow, John Boyega, Algee Smith, Will Poulter and songwriter Questlove, each panelist touched on their own difficult experience with the material at hand. Written by regular Bigelow collaborator Mark Boal, the film depicts the Algiers Motel incident and other episodes of racially motivated police brutality.

“One thing that governed the whole experience for all of us was a shared goal to try and do justice to the facts of what happened,” said Poulter, who portrayed one of the brutalizing cops. “I think we all appreciated that as actors, and even the crew, we all had to go to uncomfortable places [and] tackle emotionally testing material.”

Check out the conversation above.