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Dr. Rebecca Gomperts sails a ship around the world, providing abortions at sea for women with no legal alternative. Her idea begins as flawed spectacle, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockade. But with each roadblock comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca realizes she can use new technologies to bypass law - and train women to give themselves abortions using WHO-researched protocols with pills. From there we witness her create an underground network of emboldened, informed activists who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Vessel is Rebecca's story: one of a woman who hears and answers a calling, and transforms a wildly improbable idea into a global movement.Written by
An Important Film about the International Aspects of the Abortion Issue
The Vessel was well-received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. There is a huge media and public focus in the United States in general and in recently here in Texas in particular on the issue of abortion. However, there is rarely much attention – at least in this country - paid to the international aspects of the issue of anti- abortion laws in laws in other parts of the world. The Vessel focuses on the work of the Dutch-chartered Women on the Waves ship which sails to various countries with anti-abortion laws and performs off-shore abortions outside of the international 12-mile territorial limit. While the number of abortions that they perform is a drop in the bucket, their efforts often manage to stir up controversy and draw political attention to their cause.
The film covers an extended period of time dating back to their founding in 2001 and includes footage from Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Ecuador and Tanzania. They manage to pull on the audience's emotional heartstrings by sharing letters from women seeking abortions. In general the film is solidly filmed and the women interviewed are articulate ambassadors for their cause. Some of the rhetoric does become a little repetitive. The film also comes off as a bit one-sided as the filmmakers present their subject's opponents as close-minded extremists. They also seem unwilling to seriously engage any frames of reference on the issue other than their own of seeing abortion purely as a human right. They don't want to discuss the serious religious concerns that their opponents have. In one sequence, the activists proudly mock their opponents by hanging their abortion banner from a statue of the Virgin in Ecuador. The offensiveness of this tactic doesn't seem to occur to the either the activists or the film makers. Thus the film makers really seem to cross the line from documentary filmmakers to political advocates. Still the film is an important one that brings attention to some under discussed elements of what is truly a global – and not just an American – issue.
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