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VESSEL begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea. Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this. Her method: to provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.

Her project, Women on Waves, begins as flawed spectacle, a media frenzy, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockades. But with each setback comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law – and train women to give themselves safe abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills. We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the cutting edge of global reproductive rights, 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.


Learn more about VESSEL and connect with the film: 

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Learn more about hosting a screening here.

The Filmmakers

Diana Whitten Vessel

Diana Whitten (director/producer) is a filmmaker with a decade of professional film/TV direction, production and design experience, including work on shorts and features appearing in over 25 international film festivals. A graduate of Tufts (BA), the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (BFA), and the New School (MA), she was a Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia in 2000, founded Sovereignty Productions in 2008, and was the Director of Communications at Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program. This is her first feature film.

Mitchell Block Producer

Mitchell Block has handled the distribution and marketing of hundreds of documentary, live action, and animated shorts films and documentary features, 25 have won Oscars and 71 have received Academy Award nominations. He is president of Direct Cinema Limited, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-LA, and a life member of the UFVA and the IDA. Recent work includes the Emmy Award winning PBS series CARRIER, and the Oscar nominated short doc POSTER GIRL.


December 31, 1969

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Festivals & Awards



Winner - Special Jury Award for Political Courage & Audience Award

+ Festival Website

Sheffield Doc/Fest


Winner - Peter Wintonick Award

Telluride MountainFilm Festival


Honorable Mention for Moving Mountains Award

Nantucket Film Festival


Winner - Adrienne Shelly Excellence in Filmmaking Award

Hot Docs International Film Festival


Official Selection

Independent Film Festival Boston


Official Selection



Official Selection


An intriguing story passionately told.”


Whitten's film expertly frames the charismatic and indefatigable Gomperts as she endures the opposition and plows fearlessly forward on her mission.”

-The Austin Chronicle

A compact and punchy narrative that makes you believe one boat full of people can truly change the world…Vessel takes a highly galvanizing topic and presents it in a way that should translate to people no matter how they feel about the subject matter.”

-We Got This Covered

Intense, emotional, and inspiring.”

-Bitch Magazine

Beautiful and heart-wrenching.”



VESSEL has had an impressive outreach and community engagement campaign. Director Diana Whitten partnered with Film Sprout on a robust community screening campaign. Launching in September 2014, the campaign ended in the summer 2015 with a total of 203 campus and community screenings in partnership with 214 hosting organizations. Film Sprout collaborated with organizations like Planned Parenthood, NOW, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, and encouraged the groups to use VESSEL as an educational /advocacy tool for communities affected by lack of access to safe abortions.

For more information on VESSEL’s outreach and audience engagement campaign, and how to get involved visit the film’s website:

Outreach Resources

Women on Waves