Calling Antero Alli self-sufficient is an understatement. The Finnish-born writer, director, and playwright makes feature films shot on video that are created completely independently. Whether writing and shooting his self-financed flicks or marketing, editing, and booking screenings at art houses, Alli relishes the artistic control he maintains over his work, although the trade-off is that the general public is less likely to see it. Fervid movie buffs, however, know him as the curator of the Nomad VideoFilm Festival, a traveling showcase of avant-garde films, and as the brainy force behind his own oeuvre of esoteric cinema, such as the sci-fi cybertragedy Tragosand Crux, a documentary about crucifixion rituals. Alli's unapologetically uncommercial works have earned him a cult following that appreciates his ability to probe the darker side of the human condition -- alienation, obsession, isolation -- without sacrificing originality or becoming bogged down by sentimentality. Hysteria, a suspense thriller set in Oakland, is a case in point. The story of a young woman who leaves New York and heads west to live with her sister after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the movie doesn't just duplicate the tragedy of that day. Instead, it delves into the heart of the matter, plumbing poignant issues of religious fanaticism and cultural responsibility through Alli's trademark hallucinatory imagery and surreal visions. "I break from my own rules here, and it's pretty fast-paced," Alli says. "It was my own personal response to the shocks [of 9/11]." But he's reluctant to divulge anything else. "It's a firecracker of a story, but I can't disclose what it is," he explains. "It'll ruin the experience."