Vegan athlete documentary 'From the Ground Up' lacks depth and focus

The documentary “From the Ground Up” extols both the joys and the virtues of plant-based eating. Unfortunately, it feels exactly like being made to eat your vegetables. Director Santino Panico frames the film with his own experience as a former college football player who is training for the New York City marathon as a vegan. Mixed with the countdown to race day, he offers interviews with other plant-fueled athletes as well as the benefits of removing meat and dairy from your diet.

“From the Ground Up” approaches the issue from ethical, ecological and health angles. Experts weigh in, and football and soccer players, a weight lifter, a climber and ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek offer stories of why they became vegan and how it has helped their performance.

Cinematographer Mike Call captures each of their athletic feats and physiques with style. The documentary is at its strongest when it leans into its variety of subjects, rather than when the director centers on his own history and training. However, he skims over both, and the lack of depth and focus hurts his argument.

“From the Ground Up” isn’t well organized, and its structural and editing issues are what keeps it from being a more compelling film that could win over those outside its subject. However, this is director-producer-writer Panico’s first film, and as in sports, he may get better results next time after more practice.


‘From the Ground Up’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills

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