Own the Room
By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Inspiring global docu has messages of hope, perseverance.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No matter a person's background, race, nationality, or gender, people can make a difference and should be allowed to follow their hopes and dreams. "Where we come from does not define where we're going." Females can start businesses and compete in major industrial and commercial enterprises as well as males. The internet can be a great equalizer in helping solve problems in impoverished nations. Religious faith can be important in people's lives. Having purpose gives life meaning. Young people can make a difference. Families and friends support each other.
Positive Role Models
The five young entrepreneurs come from different countries around the world and have all persevered to overcome difficulties, ranging from poverty to natural disasters to family difficulties to social unrest and emigration. They all strive to represent their own cultures in the best possible light and to make a difference in people's lives. They're all at least bilingual. Henry talks about misconceptions of Africa and Africans. They all talk about making their local communities proud. They show courage in launching businesses and traveling across the world to pitch their ideas against stiff competition. They do their best and express satisfaction with that, even if they don't win. Parents support their kids and believe them to be special and unique.
Violence & Scariness
Television images show military artillery and a body dead in the street during violent protests in Venezuela. Images of the devastation from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Henry is detained at the Macau Airport and deported, presumably because of his race and appearance.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Henry suggests putting male and female 18-year-olds together in a shared living space would be "volatile." A man calls another man "hot."
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Language is bleeped in one sentence of dialogue when Henry says, "If opportunity won't knock on your door, break down the [bleep] wall."
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Products & Purchases
Young entrepreneurs compete in a global pitch competition for prizes of up to $100,000. Brands seen or mentioned include PlayStation, Mac, iPhone, Kmart, Walmart, Polo, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and some stores in a mall.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Young adults drink wine, beer, and champagne at various events, meals, hotel rooms, and bars. One competitor says they'll "party hard" after the competition is over.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the documentary Own the Room has overwhelmingly positive messages about young people's potential to change the world. The film's five subjects come from very different places yet face some of the same international crises -- including climate change, poverty, and social unrest. Some of these realities, glimpsed in TV footage and discussed by interviewees, could upset very young viewers. The five young entrepreneurs profiled have also all faced individual challenges, including ill or physically challenged family members, family separation, a lack of resources, and racism. But rather than dwelling on the negative or giving in to despair, all five have launched businesses that invariably aim to make a positive impact on others. They've each won a pitch competition in their respective countries and are now traveling to compete in the global event. They demonstrate courage and perseverance in making their dreams a reality, and the international competition makes it clear that they're members of a resilient, enterprising, multilingual, and globally oriented generation. The movie's message is that background, race, nationality, and gender shouldn't limit a person's potential. We can each make a difference on a local and even global level, and the film suggests that perhaps we should all be thinking about individual actions that can contribute to society at large.
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Own the Room
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What's the Story?
OWN THE ROOM follows five young entrepreneurs as they earn national titles in their respective countries that send them to the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) in Macau, China in 2019. The film shows us where each is from and learns about their backgrounds and life experiences that have shaped who they are and the businesses they have developed. Daniela Blanco is a PhD student in New York who had to flee her native Venezuela, where her beloved mother still lives, during the social unrest there and now has developed technology to create synthetic materials using solar energy. Henry Onyango launched an online business in his native Kenya to respond to college students' need for inexpensive housing in Nairobi. Santosh Pandey hails from a rural area outside Kathmandhu and created a business that offers specialized gifts and experiences that the millions of Nepalese living abroad can send to their loved ones back home. In Puerto Rico, Alondra Toledo developed an app following the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017 to help deaf people, like her young cousin, communicate better with their doctors. Jason Hadzikostas is a college student from Thessaloniki, Greece who created an app that can interpret a baby's cry. The five young people, who all aim to have a positive impact on the world, will pitch their ideas in Macau in the hopes of winning the coveted $100,000 prize of investment funds for their businesses.
Is It Any Good?
A documentary like this one provides a much-needed dose of hope about the next generation's potential to change a volatile world, one person at a time. Global realities like social unrest in Venezuela, mass emigration from Nepal, poverty in Nairobi, and hurricanes in Puerto Rico have negatively impacted millions, but they've also inspired young people to try to respond to these crises, as Own the Room illustrates. The focus of the film, which was shot in 2019, is on the people more than the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards; in fact, we see only snippets of the actual competition pitches. The directors dedicate the first 40 minutes of film time to introducing the five subjects, interviewing friends, business partners, and family members, and filming their homes and local communities. It perhaps takes the resources of a National Geographic to send cameras out to these far-flung locales to follow people around for days. But it's worth every penny. The filmmakers knew there was more emotion and human interest in the personal stories than in the actual event. (As a side note, it may be humbling for English-speaking viewers to be reminded once again what an effort people around the world make to learn to speak English with precision and grace.)
Nepal struggles with the social cost of family dislocations in what a local newspaper editor gloomily terms their "gross national sadness," making Santosh's preternaturally smiley nature all the more appealing. A full-circle moment sees him connecting with immigrant Nepalese hotel staffers in Macau. Many young Puerto Ricans left the island following Hurricane Maria, but others stayed to help rebuild. Daniela had to abandon Venezuela for the US to continue her studies, and she talks about the immigrant experience and facing down gender stereotypes in her industry. It's an emotional moment when she's reunited with her mom in Macau. Thanks to the equalizing power of the internet, Henry's mentor says, Africans can address widespread problems of poverty. Addressing stereotypes and racism is another thing, which we witness when Henry is unjustly detained at the Macau airport. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur can maybe get away with traveling in shorts and sandals, but a young man from Kenya apparently cannot. Without wanting to spoil too much, it's unexpected who doesn't get picked for the final round in the competition. It's interesting to consider how the filmmakers selected the five people to profile out of the 51 competition finalists from around the world. All of them likely had equally interesting and inspirational stories.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the similarities and differences in the life stories of the five entrepreneurs featured in Own the Room. How do their lives compare with your own? Whose story inspired you the most, and why?
Why do you think Henry was detained in Macau? Did that affect his presentation? Was it fair?
What's the role of a documentary filmmaker? Are they witnesses or actors and participants in the story they're filming?
How do the five subjects of the film demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are these admirable character strengths in business? How have these qualities helped each of them?
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2021
- Cast: Daniela Blanco, Jason Hadzikostas, Henry Onyango
- Directors: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster
- Studio: Disney+
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, STEM, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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