Just a Ploughboy

A film about Canadian writer George Ryga, Just a Ploughboy explores how the land and its people shape the writer, who in turn shapes us.

Creative team

Writer/director/producer: Gina Payzant

Filmmaker’s statement

Just a Ploughboy is about how the land and its people shape the writer, who in turn shapes us. Featured interviews include Alex Krawec, a boyhood school chum and Margo Kane, the “mother of Canadian Indigenous theatre” and the first Indigenous actor to play [George Ryga’s character] Rita Joe.

York University’s professor emeritus Don Rubin discusses the national, and global, impact of Ryga’s work at the 2017 national symposium Rita Joe at 50: A Rethink held at the Ryga Arts Festival in Summerland, British Columbia.

Since its release in 2018, Just a Ploughboy has screened in Edmonton and Athabasca, Alberta, and at the Summerland Ryga Arts Festival. The film was nominated for a Golden Sheaf Award by the Yorkton Film Festival for best Canadian history and biography documentary.

The film has been accepted by Canada’s National Screen Institute to be be part of its 2019 online short film festival. The film will also be archived by the Institute, thereby preserving the film along with the lasting and timely contributions of George Ryga to Canadian literature and culture.

About Gina Payzant

Gina Payzant

During and after the completion of her MA in Canadian theatre history at the University of Alberta in 1983, Gina Kravetz Payzant worked as a sessional lecturer for seven years at that university’s department of drama. Later she worked with Edmonton’s Northern Light Theatre as dramaturge, and in the 1980s had four plays professionally produced by Edmonton regional theatres.

While teaching Canadian history in the public school system, she continued to write plays, poems and essays. After retiring from teaching in 2010, a new challenge was presented: managing the Athabasca Archives.

In 2017 Gina wrote, produced and directed Just a Ploughboy, a short documentary film about Canadian literary giant George Ryga. Ryga is perhaps best know for his 1967 play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, a brutal yet lyrical account of the treatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

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