Set on the Isle of Muck, a remote and sparsely populated island off the west coast of Scotland, Prince of Muck is a documentary centred around Lawrence MacEwen, the Laird of Muck and the islands foremost landowner/landlord who, alongside his family, has farmed the isle since the late 1960s.
The film captures a uniquely cinematic portrait of a place and a person haunted by the past and struggling to maintain their relevance for the future.
We caught up with Dutch film director Cindy Jansen, who directed Prince of Muck, and asked her about the film and what it’s all about.
Q: Can you explain Prince of Muck in one sentence?
CL: Prince of Muck is really a film about inheritance, on all different levels.
Q: The film is set on the Isle of Muck, which is located about two hours by ferry from the mainland and is incredibly sparsely populated. Did this make filming more difficult?
CL: Everything on the island has to come in by boat, whether that’s people and equipment, or food and livestock, so it certainly made things a little more complicated! I remember one time when we were filming and it was February - so the middle of winter, which can be pretty intense in Scotland let alone on a small island - and the seas were too rough for the ferry to go, so our team spent hours on the phone to the ferry operators, trying to make sure that our van and all our equipment made it onto the next one. In regards the people however, Lawrence and his family made us feel very welcome and I did make friends I remain in contact with, on the island.
Q: Cindy, while Lawrence MacEwan was obviously a willing subject, not every member of the MacEwen family wanted to be in the documentary, did that make things difficult?
CL: A little, yes! Colin, Lawrence’s son, runs the farm alongside his father (who is now in his eighties) and he didn’t really want to be in the film and I respected his decision, although it wasn’t what we had planned for initially. You always hope people will say ‘of course, no problem, I’d love to!’ but, it is not for everyone, and I think I might be that person who would say ‘no, thank you’ too, so I get it! Also, running the farm is a huge amount of work, so Colin was genuinely incredibly busy, and so didn’t have a huge amount of time.
Q: The film seems to highlight a tension that exists between generations, in this case father and son, and in a way, between the traditional and the modern. Can you explain this a little more?
CL: As I say, Prince of Muck is really a film about inheritance, on all different levels. It’s about inheritance of land, the inheritance of a title, but also the inheritance of ideas and a way of doing things. And it isn’t always the case that the younger generation want to inherit everything the older generation has to pass on to them, particularly when advancements in technology have and continue to be so rapid. The film is about labour, land and love, but all of these thing can generate tension in their own right.