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About this film:



There is a need to separate and a need to stay in touch. Through memory, imagination and poetry the film is a haunting mosaic  of images shifting between Ireland and  London, between past and present as Stella embarks on a literature course on Irish women and exile at a London Irish centre. Through that process she reconnects with her own sense of alienation and finds a renewed sense of Self.

Directed by John Hodge and Sarah Strong

Executive Producer : Luke Campbell

This is  a debut short film ( duration: 21mins 49 secs).


About the Directors:

Sarah Strong grew up in Dublin among psychoanalysts and poets. She has lived in London since 1967. She is a practising visual artist whose work includes painting, sculpture , installation, performance, poetry and film.

She studied Fine Art at Central St Martin’s School of Art (2004-2006) and is a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture (1976). A synopsis of her thesis Man’s World , Women’s Place featured in Architectural Design’s  special edition of Women in Architecture (1975). Art exhibitions include Caoin-Lament at the London Irish Women’s Centre (2011), New Perspectives on Women and the Irish Diaspora at Bath Spa University (2012),  Migration: Mothers and Daughters (2013) at Mind Yourself. Her poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines  including  Washing Windows ? Irish Women Write Poetry by Arlen House, Prodding The Pelt by Salmon, Southword , London Grip, South Bank Poetry, The Canon's Mouth. An interview by Valerie Heffernan of Maynooth University on the use of the maternal in Strong's art practice will feature in a special issue ( 2018 ) of Women : A Cultural Review .

I Hear Fish Drowning is her first film.

Sarah Strong previously worked in the development of social housing in the 1970-1980s;  in the second half of professional life she re-trained and  graduated from The European School of Osteopathy in 1992 and has practised as an Osteopath for over 20 years.

John Hodge is an artist whose  work includes painting, installation, films and architecture.  He graduated in Fine Art from St Martins School of Art (1994 )  and from the Architectural Association (1972). He previously practised as an Architect.


This Film may be of Interest to:

Irish  groups studying issues of migration , identity, the relationship between mothers and daughters and  the loss of a mother tongue.



The film may be previewed only  on request via private vimeo link.


Vimeo link  available  on request. Please give  details of intended use.

 Contact:    email:





The film has been accepted by  a number of Film Festivals .  Following public screenings and  viewings via private vimeo link  , here are some comments received:


" A haunting piece. Beautifully made and full of mystery and texture. I was entranced as much by the cold eye , the true eye, of the aritst as by the narrative that is subtle and complex...The whole production team are to be congratulated and I was taken by the intense and superb performances of the children .

Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry  2013 - 2016


"I Hear Fish Drowning” is a mesmerising film and an extraordinarily brave examination of family and national history.  Beautifully framed, its exploration of how the present holds onto the past is tender and poetic – a perfectly formed work of art." 

Ellen McWilliams, Author of " Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction".
" It seems to me a fine piece and a significant achievement, beautifully shot and constructed, and exploring a whole range of subjects that arise from questions of identity and the expression of same. Congratulations on its production.

Pat Boran, Dedalus Press, Ireland

"I Hear Fish Drowning is stunning - packed with poetry and drama. The colour red is used in a startling and wonderful way to plumb the emotional depths of a complicated family life."

Martina Evans,  London Irish Poet


" Sarah Strong's film has a poetic & wistful power - belying the fact that this is her first film.It is full of beautifully crafted images and performances - especially from the young girls - that give a sense of 'unspoken' or untold memories - leaving the audience to figure out what lies behind the narrative and by some sort of clever alchemy, make us reflect on our own life journey. In many ways, her film leaves the viewer wanting more and I for one, look forward to seeing her satisfy this thirst in her next film. Watch it."

Chris Bould , Director/Writer/Producer & Head Of Television Met Film School.


" Set against a blood-red backdrop, the music composed by James Dorman around Schumann’s ‘Traumerei’ haunts from the outset this evocative autobiographical work by Sarah Strong. And red might well serve as the narrative’s colour, in so far as her parent’s marriage encapsulated that all too raw and bloody sectarian binary of Irish Protestantism and Catholicism. The period of her youth being within  that so called period of the new ‘Free State’ of the 1940s. That red floor, that red-pleated skirt chiming with that fiery emotion in epitomising the duality of her Mothers suppressed, native desire  when set in stark relief with the edifying rational of her psychoanalyst father’s world. Both illustrate the order of English Protestantism, in the English speaking Dublin of her childhood. The land, like the mother tongue, belonged outside the Pale. Catholicism might merely cloak her mother’s otherness, while her ancestral roots belonged to, and within, the tongue of the Gale.  An teanga ar an gala.


Strong’s work illustrates how the quest to bring meaning to ones inheritance becomes an expedition into language itself. A solitary matter in providing form out of words which pre-exist one’s very birth! Yet, the poetry in ‘I Hear Fish Drowning’ can be witnessed with her depiction of herself, as a child cocooned under a table surrounded by adults who question where truth might reside. Is she safe inside this womb? Can the table protect her from the external theorical world laying above and around her? What’s that in her hand? Might the necklace morph as a rosary beads? The symbolism of the child becoming more Freudian, as she gazes into the mirror! Copying and mimicry after all, don’t answer, and only serve to question; who is she?


The misery of not knowing propels Strong’s narrative into adulthood where, based in London, her appetite for the Mná na hÉireann in her bhaile ancestral doesn’t abate. The issue of her mother’s tongue however, with all its codes and meanings, finds itself literarily unobtainable as a result of her [mother’s] passing. Remaining adrift, ‘I Hear Fish Drowning’ concludes with her reading from her mother’s translated, rural, consciousness:


Hold fast, hold fast

That stone will melt

The channel will become

A flow of discovery

And it will again be morning

I have seen it.


‘I Hear Fish Drowning’ is beautifully shot and, as with its title, its many metaphors leave us unmoored from any notion of certainty on the question of time, what preceded us in terms of translation, and of course, loss! It’s most singular portrayal revolves around that flickering question of redemption, where it reminds us that the real truth is in the here and now, amongst the words of the artist’s language." 

  • An teanga ar an gala  =  The tongue of the Gale

  • Mná na hÉireann in her Bhaile ancestral  =  Women of Ireland in her ancestral home


Artist and Curator

© John O’Hora


 Watching Sarah’s film reminded me of the importance, for me as a community worker, of “always opening the door”. We never know when or why someone will reach out and knock on the door. Sarah did one day in Stoke Newington in 2011, I happened to open it and one of the results of that chance is this wonderful film.

Claire Barry, Director of Mind Yourself  .



" Wonderful presentation by Sarah Strong of her deeply personal and painful film 'I Hear Fish Drowning' "

Merriman Summer School on Twitter


" I found artist Sarah Strong's film deeply touching and utterly beautiful . I would like to thank her too for the talk she gave which was very moving and generous in its openess."

Laoisha O' Callaghan

Merriman Summer School Facebook


" One of the experiences from your film that stays with me is the way you brought so viscerally to the fore how children physically display the emotional trouble that so few adults bear facing ."

Shawn Tower, Psychoanalyst.


" Thanks for the song without words which is your 'I Hear Fish  

 Drowning' , ever moving : a gift for the soul ."

 Fionnuala Bates , Rudolph Steiner teacher , Ireland


" I found the images and music inexpressibly sad...the images are strikingly evocative of childhood especially the memories of mother and family troubles...A lovely film full of pathos and hope."

Keith Altham, Music Journalist ( New Musical Express/BBC ), PR and Author.


" Your film is certainly very delicate and meditative with a touch of 

 Angele Carter in the blood-red imagery,"

 Steve Martin, ICCH Film Group


" I liked the structures of vignettes from the discovery of the London  

 Irish Womens Centre , the talking and literary sessions moving the  

 narrative onwards ".

 Sean Hutton , Irish Historian and Poet.


" I could get lost in this tale of fragments and beauty, voices of 

 adults but viewed by the child ; the grown up learning of the Irish 

 language ; the child finding her way back to mother , the womb, 

 mesmerising red, blood of seduction ,suffering and creation; 

 young life renewed by finding mother's poem expressing her 

 trust  in her child's bravery to meet the dark and release her to 

 be  free to spin with delight in the womb of nature. What is

 trust ? It is love. What a pearl ! It is a healing film. It is a rare fish 

 floating in a sea of grasses, not drowning anymore ! I shall watch this 

 film again and again and every time it will glisten with different 

 colours and sounds. It is a child's painting of story telling fragments 

 that leads to resolution like all good poetry and fairy stories ; they 

 cannot be grasped in detail but archetypally as a whole. "

Olivia Lousada D.psych. Psychodrama psychotherapist.


"The film opened with the rich tones of unaccompanied cello,

drawing me in straight away so that I knew this was to be something worth watching. It was a haunting film that has stayed with me for many weeks.

Visually it was exquisite with some very muted colours , especially the greeny white grass which was interspersed with the image of the red dress throughout. There was violence in it but it was also dreamlike and not afraid to have long silences. Whole sequences turned and rolled around each other.

A brave and beautiful film."

Jo  Sanders            Poet and Musician

"I just watched your movie on my big t.v. Such a  tender conversation about such turbulence, betrayal and above all, secrets. Lovely, brave, intense family endeavor to reveal, to air. But can’t. Red as a pointer to tragedy. Deeply affected me. Fish drowning in the very medium in which they’re supposed to thrive. I know. Was thankful to see you walk right through and out the other side in the end."  

Colin Charles

" I Hear Fish Drowning is, for me, an allegory ; we knock on a door and a journey begins. Experience has been transformed  by artists into a poetic landscape.

I loved the painterly quality of the film, how the camera stays with an image and does not rush on, so that it remains as a metaphor in the mind's eye. Words, image and the evocative music make the film a rounded gem."        Sally Bentley         Dancer

The British Psychotherapy Foundation ran a series of six Saturday workshops exploring dream interpretation through the Jungian lens between January and June 2019. One of these seminars, presented by Rupert Tower, Jungian analyst and member of the Society of Analytical Psychology, explored dreams in art, literature and film dream as parallel reality. A clip from the short film ‘I Hear Fish Drowning’(2014) directed by Sarah Strong and John Hodge was shown depicting the scene where a young girl, observes her mother dancing with a man, goes to her mother’s drawer, takes out her red dress, and rips it to pieces in fury and anger. The film lingers on the redness of the dress and its associated symbolism, and evokes the concept of the Electra Complex.  

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