Home Arts Abortion at sea, the story of Women on Waves

Abortion at sea, the story of Women on Waves

by Johanna Pellus October 28, 2014
Abortion at sea, the story of Women on Waves

Vessel shares the tale of women’s rights activist Dr. Gomberts helping all around the world

How can the obvious become disputable? How can a basic human right for a Dutch woman become an assault course for thousands of other women around the world? Vessel tells such a story and the fight of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts.

Diana Whitten’s documentary movie follows the trials and tribulations of Women on Waves, a Dutch organization led by Gomperts. This organization takes advantage of international marine law to provide legal and safe abortions to women who live in countries where abortion is illegal.

Winner of the South by Southwest Film Festival’s Special Jury Recognition for Political Courage award for documentary, Whitten made a portrait from inside of the 15-year history of the organization. Using her own camera as well as footage filmed by previous aspiring documentarians who boarded Gomperts’ ship, Whitten succeeds at bringing us into the depths of the vessel. It also presents intelligibly to the audience Women on Web, the organization that was created to share informations about safe abortion around the world.

“If men could get pregnant, there wouldn’t be abortion laws,” said Gomperts to The Times last week. The doctor keeps promoting and developing the underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the radical cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Polish activist Kinga Jelinska mentions at the end of the movie that Women on Waves has received an increasing number of inquiries from the United States in recent years.

Even if animated sequences with medical and statistical details provide valuable context, some detractors may find that the subject would need a more distanced approach. But if you want to change people’s minds, you need to bring them inside the reality.

That is one goal of documentary cinema: to show a reality. Vessel does exactly that, even it it means not being objective. Vessel is the reality of activism, with its successes and defeats.

This documentary movie is a must-see for anyone interested in human rights or activism. It keeps reminding us how a right is never totally gained and must always be fought for to assure its preservation.

Vessel premieres in Quebec as part of Cinema Politica Concordia on Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. The movie is co-presented with Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances and the Concordia Centre for Gender Advocacy. The director will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

For more information, visit cinemapolitica.org.

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