The title is a reference to a line from T.S. Eliot's poem " "Prufrock" aka "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" that reads: "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me".
Writer-director Patricia Rozema has said of this film: "Our voices, our representation of ourselves, have been in the hands of others, namely men, since the beginning of the mediums of film and television. My main character in I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) videotaped a confession that is used through the film. It's her way of having control over her definition of herself" and "I have become post facto a representative of the country. So if you ask, 'Is Mermaids a Canadian film? It has become one. It has become a means whereby people characterize Canadian film. I think in the creation of Mermaids, I did see it in political terms. I thought of the underdog. Canada is not a superpower by any means. It's very quietly, comfortably democratic, but it's plagued by a sense of inferiority".
The Toronto International Film Festival in 1993 ranked the film at the No. #9 rank in their "Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time". The movie missed out in their 2004 list, which is compiled about every ten years, whilst the film had yet-to-be-made for their 1984 list.
The surrealist black-&-white dream-like sequences in the film are all accompanied by Léo Delibes' music score 'Lakmé: The Flower Duet" (Act 2, No 2 Duetto: Viens, Malika... Sous le dôme épais où le blanc jasmin).
The film was selected to screen as part of the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 where it premiered. The movie there was the winner of the prestigious Prix de Jeunesse award and got a standing ovation.
The use of Léo Delibes' music score 'Lakmé: The Flower Duet" (Act 2, No 2 Duetto: Viens, Malika... Sous le dôme épais où le blanc jasmin) made the movie the second film of the 1980s to be associated with same sex female coupling with the earlier picture being The Hunger (1983).