Own The Room Image

Own The Room

By Alan Ng | March 12, 2021

NEW TO DISNEY+! Own The Room comes from Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster, the same filmmakers who brought us the incredible Science Fair. Similar to that film, this National Geographic documentary tells the story of young people around the world who possess the passion and ingenuity to change the world. It opens with Santosh Pandey’s public humiliation as a confetti cannon goes off point-blank at the young man’s head. He was just told that he would represent the country of Nepal at the upcoming Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Macau, China.

Joining him is Jason Hadzikostas from Greece, the Co-Founder of iCry2Talk — an app that uses A.I. to interpret infants’ moods and cries. Hailing from Kenya is Henry Onyango, the founder of Roometo, which helps college students in Kenya find places to live near their university. From Puerto Rico comes Alondra Toledo with a service that offers mental health care to the country’s hearing-impaired community called UnderstHand; it was used significantly after Hurricane Maria. Finally, there is the U.S. representative Daniela Blanco, an immigrant from Venezuela and co-founder of Sunthetics. She developed a way of manufacturing nylon through solar energy, bypassing the need for traditional fossil fuels.

Own The Room does a stellar job doing what we’d expect a documentary like this to do. We learn of each subject’s life and how they rose above their station and showed off that entrepreneurial spirit. It’s almost like an international version of Shark Tank. Their stories are compelling. In fact, I was more invested in them as individuals than I was in their business ideas.

Then there is the main competition in Macau. There’s plenty of drama to be found here, and the filmmakers do a good job building it up. A particularly dramatic moment sees Onyango deported back to Kenya just before entering Macao. Part of the reason may have been his skin color, but the other might have been the fact that he did not dress like a businessman.

“…young people around the world…represent [their] country…at the upcoming Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Macau…”

Whenever I hear someone mention how millennials will save the world, I get pretty cynical at these overly optimistic and emotional statements. But films like Own The Room force me to check my prejudice. Just the fact that we’re presenting these young people who see a need, create a solution, and operate all aspects of this new business tells me they understand their role in a global economy and doing something about it.

I can’t help but continue to compare Own The Room with Science Fair because the storytelling style is the same, and it just works. This makes the documentary an enjoyable and educational experience. Costantini and Foster have found the perfect way to balance the stories of young serious, optimistic, hardworking people with moments of humor and humanity. It also helps that the students are interesting and full of energy.

Also, like Science Fair, I’m amazed at the directors’ ability to pick winners from around the world. This isn’t professional wrestling where the outcome is predetermined. You have to know the teens you follow are going to make it to the end when looking for subjects. Also, the film is refreshingly honest. Let’s face it, a balloon and flowers service to Nepalese people around the world pales in comparison to a clean and sustainable way of producing nylon, which will revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

Own The Room is fun, hopeful, and inspiring to any future entrepreneur and a must-watch.

Own The Room (2021)

Directed and Written: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster

Starring: Daniela Blanco, Jason Hadzikostas, Santosh Pandey, Henry Onyango, Alondra Toledo, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Own The Room Image

"…an enjoyable and educational experience."

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