What do riding bikes through the cornfields of Ontario, skateboarding the streets of Vancouver and a family road trip through the Pacific Northwest have in common? The first part of the answer is the Zenga Bros, a Vancouver-based film studio that has captured unique cinematic tales from all of these places. The second part is slightly more revealing, because it also answers the question of what inspired the Zenga Bros to embark on their own strange artistic journeys and, in turn, establish themselves as one of the country’s most eclectic film collectives.
“There are so many ways to move,” says Benny Zenga who, along with his brother Christian, moved from Ontario to open a studio in downtown Vancouver four years ago. “There are so many ways to hurtle yourself through the air and there are so many ways to find yourself and ignite that feeling of exploration and wonder.”
The Zenga Bros have a vast body of work—one which requires finding a common thread in order to explain who they are. Their most well known piece is Ski Boys, which they presented to the film festival circuit in 2005 as a “found film, a lost relic from the 70s.” It acts as a pre-history record of the Zenga Bros.
The concept of pre-history can serve to explain the difference in tone for some of their later works. Take Leeside Skateboard Mayhem, for instance. While Ski Boys is characterized by the child-like wonder that existed in a bygone era, Leeside captures a riotous Halloween night of fireworks and 50-50 grinds at one of Vancouver’s most iconic skateparks.
“What we try to convey in our videos is a sense of exploration, a fresh creative approach instead of conforming to what becomes the norm,” says Benny.
That deviation from the norm is perhaps best embodied by 2011’s Eccentrification Tour, which involved 21 Zenga family members travelling the PNW in hand-painted vans “to encourage active living, creative expression and homemade entertainment.” “Benny’s crucial mix of imagination, assuredness and just a pinch of naivety, doesn’t come around too often,” says Dan Post, former Color magazine editor and current Jamcouver Communications Coordinator, “When it does, you feel inclined to get on board with his plan and follow him wherever he’s going next.”
The Zenga Bros never stop creating, whether they’re making movies, building 10 foot-tall bikes or crafting skateboardable pieces of installation art. The DIY style of experimentation is super important to them and is exemplified perfectly in Skate Heads, another short film that dropped in the spring of 2015. You can view it and more at zengabros.com to get a better sense of the spirit behind this film studio, but maybe Benny can sum it up better in the meantime. “Wasn’t it rad when we used to just put a board against a brick and use it as a jump ramp?”
Photo: Brian Vernor