x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Acclaim for volunteers who make DIFF happen

Some 600 volunteers from a variety of nationalities have put themselves on the front line for this year's DIFF festival, gaining experience and making friends along the way.

Volunteers take a break in between their duties at the Dubai International Film Festival yesterday. Jeff Topping / The National
Volunteers take a break in between their duties at the Dubai International Film Festival yesterday. Jeff Topping / The National

DUBAI // It takes a cast of hundreds to make the Dubai International Film Festival work.

Some 600 volunteers from a variety of nationalities have put themselves on the front line for this year's festival, gaining experience and making friends along the way.

Among them was Rohit Bhatia, who said the best thing about volunteering was meeting the stars.

"I joined for the experience and my favourite moments were meeting Ed Harris and Colin Farrell. I also watched The Way Back - an amazing film," said the 19-year-old Indian.

Rahim Javed, from Pakistan, said the festival provided a welcome break from the routine of studying. He is currently taking an accountancy qualification.

"We meet many different people while doing something different and get to see what it takes to put something like this together."

The 22-year-old student's main duties include overseeing press conferences and making stars feel welcome on the red carpet.

"I was born here so I also love supporting great local talent like [the] Emirati director Abdullah al Kaabi," he added.

Deepika Chanbial, the human resources and volunteers supervisor for Diff, has worked on the festival for the past six years, and said the event would be impossible without the efforts of volunteers.

"We had 875 applications but unfortunately we cannot take everyone. Working with the volunteers is wonderful because they are the pillars of the festival," Ms Chanbial said. The minimum age requirement was 15 years old and the hiring process started in November.

"I would say 10 per cent of them are genuinely interested in getting involved in the industry," she said.

That is true of 20-year-old Aurelius Atwell, from the United States, who is studying audio engineering at the SAE Institute in Dubai's Knowledge Village.

"This is my second year volunteering and my responsibility is to ensure everyone has the proper information they require. For me, it is also about taking the opportunity to network and learning from the sessions," said Mr Atwell, who last year walked away with a four-month internship at Virgin Radio.

Ritisha Pancholi, from India, supervises the press and publicity department and said even though the volunteers do not get paid, the experience was worth it. "I enjoy it because this is one of the most happening events in Dubai. I also get to meet the media and stars like Colin Firth," said Ms Pancholi.

Aarni Vaghela, also from India, said he had learnt many things about the festival.

"This has encouraged me to get into the industry and it's been the best experience of my life," he said.

Rabiya Sonde, a student of media and communications at Manipal University, said she would like to continue working in the film industry.

"I would love to have a full-time position with Diff because it's a great opportunity," she said. "I saw celebrities like Jean Reno and Jim Sturgess and watched The Way Back, which had fantastic cinematography."

 

melshoush@thenational.ae