Educated at the People"s Liberation Army International Relations University in Nanjing, Lu spent two years serving in the Army as a secretary to a general. After his time in the army, Lu attended the Beijing Film Academy for a masters degree in directing. While there, he studied the works of his favorite directors including Ingmar Bergman, Jim Jarmusch, and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
His dissertation was on the American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
Hailed as a major new voice in Chinese cinema, Lu"s first two films were small-budget productions which garnered both Chinese and international acclaim: 2002"s The Missing Gun and 2004"s Kekexili: Mountain Patrol. Lu"s third film, the war drama City of Life and Death, was released in April 2009 to both critical and commercial success. At the same time, however, the film"s sympathetic portrayal of a Japanese soldier aroused controversy.
Lu"s historical film The Last Supper was released in 2012.