ABLED, the feature directorial debut of Union Partner/Editor Einar Thorsteinsson, will have its world premiere on May 20, at The 49th annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).
At the film’s center is Blake Leeper – a medal-winning Paralympian sprinter and world record holder in the 400m – who aspires to be in the Olympics. ABLED draws on candid interviews, incisive reporting, and rigorous scientific testing to expose the deliberate bias against disabled athletes who want to compete against the “able-bodied” and the dubious science used to bar them from their dreams.
The film’s producers are Einar, Katherine LeBlond, Alan Finkel, Brian Leong (all of Union) and Johann Stefansson (Blake Leeper’s trainer). Union partners Michael Raimondi, Jim Haygood, Jay Friedkin, and Leo David serve as Executive Producers of ABLED.
“Having the opportunity to follow and get to know Blake with my camera over the last few years has made my editing of his story even more incredible to do,” said Thorsteinsson. “He’s remarkable, and I’m extremely proud to have his story out with the world.”
Born with both legs missing below the knee, Leeper embraced sports from a young age, playing baseball and basketball, but did not turn his eye to competitive running till his late teens. He quickly became a major competitor in the 100m, 200m, and 400m sprints, earning a silver and bronze medal at the 2012 London Paralympics.
After a non-performance drug suspension scuttled his dream for the 2016 Rio Games, Leeper announced his intention to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics against “able-bodied” runners. But despite the one-time precedent set by fellow blade runner Oscar Pistorius at the 2012 Olympics, World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, claims Leeper’s blades give him an advantage over non-disabled runners—a misconception that still persists, particularly among the uninformed public. Watch the trailer below:
“As Union grows to become a content provider, it’s fantastic that we can now support our partners in long-form projects they feel passionate about,” said Raimondi, Partner/Managing Director at Union. “It’s even better when the project is as meaningful as ABLED. It’s been a pleasure and a gift to bring Blakes’s story to life and help realize Einar’s vision as a filmmaker.”
Einar’s recent editorial work includes projects for Adidas, Cisco, Ford, and Toyota. From dialogue to sheet metal, from the real world to the imagined, Einar’s output is unified by its power. Directors are drawn to collaborate with him again and again, as much for his emotional awareness as for his keen visual storytelling. His collaborations with directors Sean Thonson, Matt Ogens, Warren Kushner, Craig Gillespie, and many, many others have yielded standout and often celebrated campaigns.
SIFF returns in person May 11–21, 2023 taking Seattle moviegoers on a cinematic odyssey at venues across the city, followed by a week of select films streaming on the SIFF Channel May 22–28. Tickets: here.