Carolina Loyola-Garcia's "Hibridos sin Lineaje" opens with her camera amongst the whirling skirts of some traditional dancers. Yet shortly, we're heading down the rabbit hole, complete with a voice-over quoting Lewis Carroll's Alice.
The guide here, however, isn't a waistcoated bunny; he's a middle-aged miner whom Loyola-Garcia met while shooting video in an abandoned mining village in southern Spain. When they ran into each other, he offered to give her a tour of the mine. "Not very safe," recalls Loyola-Garcia today. "But super interesting, so let's go."
So began one of the several close encounters with interview subjects that comprise the lyrical 25-minute "Hibridos sin Lineaje" ("Hybrids Without Lineage"). Loyola-Garcia screens the work at the Dec. 14 installment of the Film Kitchen series, along with footage from Inheritors of a Burden, her work-in-progress flamenco documentary. Also screening are shorts by local artists Jennifer Moore and Ben Pelhan.
Loyola-Garcia, a native of Chile who came to Pittsburgh in the late 1990s to study at Carnegie Mellon University, has long been interested in the way cultures and art genres overlap and blend. She's now a media-arts instructor at Robert Morris University whose video work has been exhibited internationally. She's also a curator, a printmaker ... and a flamenco dance performer and instructor.
The interviews in "Hibridos" began two years ago, during a visit to Spain. Besides the miner, named Envigio, there's Eduardo, an older man who tells how when he was an infant, a nosy neighbor narrowly prevented his accidental death. Another man, Pepe, talks about losing his wife. A Pittsburgh-area writer named Jane reads a poem that's important to her. One interview, shot in Chile, is with a Chilean teenager who identifies himself as a punk anarchist and reveals why he wants to be a child psychologist.
"Hibridos" has no formal theme. "It's a conversation. Sometimes it's just a random encounter," Loyola-Garcia says. She simply wove together the moments from each interview in which the subject revealed something deep. "If you have somebody interesting to talk to, you will get to that point," she says.
Flamenco was another rabbit hole. Loyola-Garcia began studying the distinctive, ethnically Spanish dance form in 1996, while she was still in college, in Chile.
Pittsburgh had no flamenco when she arrived a couple years later. The fact that it does now is partly due to the artist herself, who started teaching it in 2001, mostly to adults.
She began shooting for Inheritors of a Burden two years ago, and with help from the Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative, she's traveled to East Coast hot spots like Washington, D.C. On Dec. 14, she'll screen 14 minutes of footage, assembled for fundraising purposes, that include interviews and performances with the likes of: veteran Spanish-born singer Manolo Leiva; dancer Edwin Aparicio, whom she calls "one of the best male flamenco dancers in the U.S."; and Carmela Greco, a singer and daughter of the legendary Jose Greco, whose dance company popularized flamenco in the U.S.
The striking visual style of the performance segments, meanwhile, was inspired by the work of Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura, who frequently explores flamenco. Working with cinematographer Mark Knobil, Loyola-Garcia had her singers, dancers and guitarists select their favorite flamenco rhythm. (There are 40.) Then she set them up in a small black-box studio fitted with light boxes -- an inventive way to isolate passionate wailing, fingers flying along a fretboard, or heels rattling the floorboards.
It's Christmastime, and a depressed and drunken man contemplates suicide over a woman. All the while he lugubriously sings about it ("Fuck all this merriment and cheer") -- only to be taunted by some deliriously corny seasonal sentiments emanating from the upstairs apartment. The ensuing confrontation is the surprise in Jessica Moore's 6-minute musical comedy "A Christmas Miracle."
Ben Pelhan's two Film Kitchen selections are experimental shorts. "Walking to the Park" is a first-person meditation. "Phallocentrism and the Automobile" features a young woman in sunglasses, giving us a tour of her Volvo station wagon. "My penis has rear-wheel drive," she asserts. "My mom bought this penis brand-new in 1989."
Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., Dec. 14 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $5. 412-681-9500