A QUICK GLANCE AT Hong Kong director Nelson Yu Lik-wai's resume reveals more than a passing interest in two of the most influential bands in the history of alternative rock. His first feature, Love Will Tear Us Apart, is named after a song by British post-punk group Joy Division, while his second is titled All Tomorrow's Parties, after a song by Lou Reed's former band, Velvet Underground. But while Yu admits to being a fan of both bands since he was a teenager in Hong Kong, his films have no direct connection to either, beyond flashes of dark humour and a preoccupation with alienation. Love Will Tear Us Apart, starring Tony Leung Ka-fai, is about the experiences of mainland immigrants in Hong Kong, while All Tomorrow's Parties imagines a post-apocalyptic future in which continental Asia is ruled by a mysterious cult. 'I called my film All Tomorrow's Parties as a kind of a tribute both to the song and to the Velvet Underground,' says Yu. 'It also features a song by Joy Division, Insight, because I love the lyrics - 'I keep my eyes on the door, I'm not afraid any more'. It's very dark but optimistic at the same time.' Apart from being named after famous songs, Yu's first two films also share the rare honour of being screened at the Cannes Film Festival. His debut film played in the main competition section of the festival in 1999 and All Tomorrow's Parties screened in the Un Certain Regard section last month. Set sometime in the mid-21st century, it tells the story of Zhuai (played by non-professional actor Diao Yinan) and his younger brother Mian (Zhao Weiwei) who are captured by the 'Gui Dao' sect and packed off to 'Camp Prosperity' to have their dissident minds re-educated. When the sect is suddenly overthrown, the two brothers experience real freedom for the first time. Zhuai falls for a single mother, Xuelan (played by Korean actress Cho Yong-won), and takes her and her small son to an abandoned industrial city. The couple attempt to set up a normal family unit but find that recreating the past isn't as easy as it first seemed. Although slated by some critics for being pretentious, the film explores some interesting concepts and 'what if' scenarios. 'It was inspired by recent world events - particularly terrorism and the rise of sect and cult worship in different parts of the world,' explains the 37-year-old director. 'I couldn't understand how we'd become so fragile.' The film also examines the rapid changes taking place in Asian society and culture. 'Many people in Asia have escaped the stigma of living in the Third World, but at the same time we have lost our traditional beliefs and values,' Yu continues. 'Instead of creating our own identity, we're simply copying the values of the First World. I believe we're actually creating a Second World where we will be happy enough materially but empty inside.' With its references to cults and lost religion, the film - which was shot without permission on the mainland - has reportedly angered China's film censors, who have threatened to punish Yu. The director is quick to point out that it's not a story about the Falun Gong, and the fictional 'Gui Dao' cult is more akin to Afghanistan's Taleban regime. 'There are sects and cult worship in many Asian countries,' he says. 'Cults like the Falun Gong are a vulgarisation of other religions that have only become possible because people are seeking for identity and a belief system.' As the film was shot on digital video for a budget of less than US$1 million (HK$7.8 million), Yu was forced to be inventive in portraying the future. 'Another inspiration is Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville,' he says, referring to the French director's 1965 experiment with science-fiction. 'Godard found a creative way to present details of the future on a low budget. You don't have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars or use expensive special effects.' Compared to the excesses of films such as The Matrix Reloaded, which cost about US$150 million, such austerity appears admirable, although it's unlikely to excite audiences outside art-houses and the festival circuit. Rather than build expensive sets, Yu found the perfect backdrop for his story in the urban decay of Datong on the border between Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. 'I worked on a documentary there a few years ago and thought it would make a wonderful location for a low-tech science- fiction film,' says Yu. 'It was an important city in the 1950s because of its mining industry but when the area became over-mined, a lot of buildings were abandoned. There was no need for set dressing because everything was already there.' Born in Hong Kong in 1966, Yu studied film at Belgium's Institut National Superieur des Arts du Spectacle and made his directing debut with the 1996 documentary Neon Goddesses, about three young women who dream of success while working in nightclubs in Beijing. He has also worked as a cinematographer on films such as Ann Hui On-wah's 1998 Ordinary Heroes and three films by renowned underground mainland director Jia Zhangke - Xiao Wu (1997), Platform (2000) and last year's Unknown Pleasures. However, it was his first film as director, Love Will Tear Us Apart, that brought Yu international recognition. Supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, the film was produced by acclaimed director Stanley Kwan Kam-pang who persuaded Tony Leung to defer his usual salary to take a lead role. Its exposure at Cannes brought Yu to the attention of French film production and sales company Celluloid Dreams which co-financed and produced All Tomorrow's Parties and is handling its international distribution. Yu is now developing a film called People Exchange, about a girl with mental problems who is addicted to plastic surgery. 'It's a very personal project that I've been working on for years but put aside to make All Tomorrow's Parties. I'm talking to investors and hope it will be my next film.'