New film to depict Hebridean laird's battle to preserve his island's 'fragile society'

A new documentary depicting a long-standing Hebridean laird’s struggles to preserve his vision of island life is to get a world premiere as part of the Edinburgh International Film festival next month.

By Brian Ferguson
Friday, 23rd July 2021, 12:41 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:57 pm
Prince of Muck will get its world premiere as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival next month.
Prince of Muck will get its world premiere as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival next month.

Prince of Muck will focus on the intense relationship between Lawrence MacEwen and the Isle of Muck, which has been owned by his family since 1896.

Prince of Muck focuses on MacEwen’s life-long mission to keep intact the “fragile society” on Muck - which has a population of around 38 and just one road a mile and a half long - and his efforts to try to ensure his ideals are adopted by future generations of islanders.

An official announcement about the premiere describes the film as “a uniquely cinematic portrait of a place and a person haunted by the past and struggling to maintain their relevance for the future.”

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Dutch filmmaker Cindy Jansen’s documentary will be screened across Scotland to coincide with its premiere at the film festival, which will be returning to its traditional August slot in the calendar for the first time in more than a decade.

Jansen said: “I first went to the Isle of Muck with an open curiosity, but quickly became fascinated by the complex nature of the way in which everyone on the island is interdependent.

"It made me think deeply about my own society, here in Holland, but I knew that in Muck, I had the opportunity to study the fragile balance between

tradition and modernity in an entire ‘micro society’.

The new film portrays how Lawrence MacEwen has battled to preserve his vision of island life on Muck, in the Inner Hebrides.

"In Lawrence MacEwen, I found an engaging character, who is not only deeply embedded in the community, but who transcends the history of the island, as he struggles to accept that intergenerational change is profoundly challenging, but inevitable. It is wonderful that the film will premiere at EIFF, close to its home ground.

“It’s a great compliment to the people in the film and the team who made it happen."

Rohan Crickmar, EIFF documentary programme consultant, said: “Quite simply, Prince of Muck is a celebration of the Scottish landscape and its people that focuses on the need to renew and evolve heritage and tradition to preserve a sense of community.

"It will allow you to see a part of Scotland rarely documented, and in a strikingly different way which highlights cultural commonalities across Europe’s northlands.”

The MacEwen family's farmhouse on the Isle of Muck.

Prince of Muck is one of three films in this year’s programme - along with opening night curtain-raiser Pig, Nicolas Cage’s acclaimed new drama, and new Billy Crystal comedy Here Today, which will close the festival - which will be screened simultaneously across the country to coincide with their EIFF premieres.

Cinemas, arts centres and Scotland’s mobile picture house, the Screen Machine, have been lined up for screenings in Shetland, Tiree, Tobermory, Fort Augustus, Glasgow, Oban, Stirling, Inverness, Dundee, Hawick, Aberdeen and Aberfeldy, thanks to £50,000 in funding from the Scottish Government's Festivals Expo Fund.

Culture secretary Angus Robertson said: “The Edinburgh International Film Festival excels in showcasing Scotland, and this year is no exception.

“The world premiere of Scottish-made documentary Prince of Muck - one of three films to be simultaneously screened in locations across Scotland during the festival – will bring audiences back together to see our nation through different eyes, celebrating its landscapes, its people and the importance of community.”

Prince of Muck will be screened in 12 locations across Scotland when it is launched as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Lawrence MacEwen is the focus of the new documentary Prince of Muck.