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Disney+ Review: Own the Room

March 12, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Five students from different parts of the world who all share a similar entrepreneurial spirit come together to compete at the 2019 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in the new National Geographic documentary Own the Room, which is premiering on Disney Plus this weekend.

The five students that the film follows have each been individually chosen to represent their countries at the international national GSEA competition in Macau, China. Santosh Pandey is a go-getter from Nepal who has made a business out of staging surprises for out of town relatives through his company Offering Happiness.

Henry Onyango is a computer programmer from Nairobi whose startup Roometo helps students find housing. Alondra Toledo is a gregarious young woman from Puerto Rico who works in her family’s bakery, and has invented a sign language interpretation app for the Deaf community. Jason Hadzikostis is an eager young man from Greece who as created the app iCry2Talk, which uses AI and machine learning to translate the cries of babies for new parents.

Finally, at the centre of Own the Room is the highly ambitious Daniela Blanco, whose story is unique in that she is an immigrant who fled the political unrest in Venezuela and settled in New York City, and has been chosen to represent the United States at the competition. Blanco is the co-founder of a startup company called Sunthetics, which is developing a sustainable way to create nylon using solar energy, and her bright personality is such that we can’t help but cheer her on right from the get-go.

Directed by Cristina Constantini and Darren Foster, the same team behind the 2018 documentary Science Fair, Own the Room is a family-friendly film (any swear words have been bleeped out for the steaming service) that seems aimed at inspiring other young people. The five main subjects are all likeable personalities with interesting stories and interesting ideas, and we find ourselves rooting for them as the film goes on.

The film itself is smoothly assembled, and moves at a quick clip, allowing us to become invested in the competition and exchange of ideas. Not everyone will make it to the finals, and there are some other pitfalls along the way, including problems with Henry’s visa, which adds some suspense to the film over whether or not he will make it on time to compete. All in all, Own the Room is an engaging and inspiring documentary that does a good job of introducing us to these young people and their ideas, which might just change the world.

Own the Room is now available to stream exclusively on Disney+.

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