On 9 March 2014, the safe abortion documentary ‘Vessel’, directed and produced by Diana Whitten, premiered at the international South by South West Music Conference and Film Festival (SXSW Film Festival) in Austin, TX. The documentary tells the story of the work done by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts, who founded Women on Waves in 2000 to prevent unsafe abortions by providing sexual health services, including early medical abortions with pills, on board a Dutch ship outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal.
The documentary gained considerable some online publicity both prior to the festival and after the premiere, not least because of the controversy surrounding the issue of legal abortion, including in the United States. The film was listed by several websites as one of the “must sees” of the festival, including a recommendation by head of the festival Janet Pierson.
‘Vessel’ was received very positively by the public and media alike. The website Real Screen posted an interview with director Diana Whitten, including a short clip of the documentary, and the Austin Chronicle featured an insightful and positive review.
The positive response was crowned by the Special Jury Recognition for Political Courage, awarded to the documentary on March 11.
Hivos would like to congratulate Diana Whitten with this great success. Hivos has been one of the main funders of the movie through its Rights and Citizenship programme – and the Women’s Empowerment focal area in particular – and has also been an active supporter of Women on Waves since 2003.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Doc) on TheLip.tv featured ‘Vessel’ on its weekly show that is devoted to a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking with the aim of entertaining, informing and bringing attention to documentaries and filmakers that deserve exposure. Watch ‘VESSEL – Abortion in International Waters Documentary, SXSW Award Winner’ (15 mins) here.