A new way of attending the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is watching documentaries online 24/7 in your own time. There are many different films and themes from Australia and other parts of the world to watch and one of these is Wheels of Wonder.
Play is important, play makes a difference to children's lives; these are the overarching messages in this heart-warming film set in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The story revolves around an unusual project which arose out the desire to improve the lives of refugee children and to enable them to do what all children love to do, play.
The film Wheels of Wonder highlights the importance of play for all children but especially those children who have been displaced frome their home countries and need play to navigate this new life full of challenges, and to feel anchored, if only in the moments of play. Play is also shown to be one of the most important tools for the development of the brain and, of course, it is also a lot of fun.
The idea behind the loose parts cart project was to develop moveable pieces of play equipment that can be assembled in different ways and in different communities, allowing for transport moveability and interchangeable modules that can be used by children in many different ways and in different spaces. It was a challenging project with a number of very innovative minds working on it together and finding ways to overcome these challenges.
Based on the idea of "loose parts cart project" it was developed by a group of social impact creators who wanted to provide play equipment for childern who need it most. The film starts off with the challenges of the team hunting for robust, unbreakable "loose parts" to include in the carts, think coloured balls, wooden spoons. Looking for wheels proved to be another major challenge as was the actual putting together of the boxes. Once the prototype was built it was taken to a refugee camp for testing.
The first time the children get to test and play with this equipment their joy is palpable, as is the chaos as they try out every piece of equipment and ways of using it. The creators are pretty happy with their effort too before they head back to the office to work on the project again after the testing. The final result is then far more refined and sophisticated and fulfilled all the specifications and wishes of the project team.
The film highlights how children, finding themselves in refugee camps, have a strong need to play to and to reconnect with their childhood and sense of some normality despite the dire conditions and often risks which are present in the camps. As the film follows the development of the Wheels of Wonder cart, we get to see the joy and fun as children engage with the modules in different ways. Age and location don't play a big role here as all the children are able to find their own games and ways of sharing in this innovative play project.
The film is directed by Roger Ungers, a Melbourne-based freelance videographer, video editor and photographer, and is part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival which runs until 15th July. It runs for 69 minutes and the cost ranges between $ 8 (one stream) to $100 for all streams of the festival.