How Strong The Children is a personal documentary video in which the relationship of a mother with her two young daughters is examined—finding the terrain chaotic and hardly conforming to prior expectations. Weaving in and out through multi-linear and noisy layers, the mother interviews the daughters, one daughter interviews the mother, the daughters play together, the mother reprimands the daughters, they have breakfast and get ready for school and work together, the mother reads a poem, the daughters read a fairy story, nuclear reactors seem to be a part of it, Amelia Earhart makes appearances, texts refer to the musings of the mother—all these elements pile on top of one another in apparent chaos. But some ideas emerge, and one could leave without feeling uncomfortable about the chaos. The children, at least, are strong.

28:00 minutes © 1998
color / mono sound / DV

Watch Video »

What people have said

“Hamilton Metcalfe’s How Strong The Children (1998, 28:00 minutes) is replete with the ironic redundancy inherent in the phrase ‘working mother.’ Visually arresting with multi-layered and manipulated images, the multi-linear textual and voice-over narrative follows the artist as she struggles to interview her two young daughters about motherhood. The girls resist, subjugating their mother, the artist, by mimicking her attitudes and revealing her conflicted relationship to motherhood. Hamilton Metcalfe’s personal myths about the experience of having children are deconstructed by the children themselves, who continually defy her expectations. Instead of being an ‘adventurous’ mother leading an ‘organic, in-sync’ family, in which ‘everyone [is] stimulated…everyone [is] stimulating,’ Hamilton Metcalfe finds herself the ‘servant to this very small person’ who bears the artist’s own ‘freedom and independence-loving gene,’ referring to this twist of fate as a ‘biological indignity.’ We follow the discordant thread of Hamilton Metcalfe’s experience of motherhood throughout the video, as her children offer that she could be a ‘better mother,’ that she gets ‘cranky’ and should ‘stop working so hard.’ Although she experiences no revelation as a result of her search, the title of the piece tells us where she is going: the children are strong enough to do many things without her. She includes a litany of fairy tales that portray children without parents, stories that have a ‘safe and happy end,’ as she knows her own will.

- Karen vanMeenen,
Metaphors & Myths: Women Videomakers on Motherhood,

“Dense, elliptical, tender, and a bit disturbing, [How Strong The Children] is an intelligent and compelling work.”

- Amy Taubin
Village Voice, November 23, 1999

Writer, director, editor: Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe

How Strong The Children was produced through Artist-in-Residency programs at
The Experimental Television Center Ltd.,
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
Downtown Community Television

Selected Screenings:
Rochester Contemporary, Rochester, New York - Maternal Metaphors exhibition
The Millennium, New York
Black Maria Film and Video Festival, NY/NJ
International Women’s Video Festival, Hamilton, New Zealand

Winner, DIRECTOR’S CITATION AWARD, Black Maria Film and Video Festival

Please use earphones to watch, as the sound on this version (on the Internet Archive) is a bit low.