Europe builds bridges with Middle East

Eurimages holds board meeting at Dubai Filmmart

DUBAI — The European Union is expanding the footprint of its funds for co-productions and film distribution to the Arab world and beyond with two bridge-building initiatives announced at the Dubai Film Festival.

On Wednesday, co-production fund Eurimages held its first ever board meeting outside Europe at the Dubai Filmmart — the world’s main market for Arab cinema and a prime platform for Asian and African pics. Concurrently, the EU’s Euromed program for dialogue between cultures in the Mediterranean basin, formalized the launch of Medis, the first network of film distributors in the Arab region, and appointed Moroccan distributor Mohamed Layadi as its president.

“Films by non-European directors have been able to access Eurimages for two years now, as long as they had two European co-producers,” Eurimages topper Roberto Olla told Variety. That includes U.S. directors.

The novelty, he said, is that “now producers from 39 Eurimages-member countries have come to Dubai, and we expect this to spawn some concrete co-productions with the Middle East, but possibly even with Africa, and Asia.”

Olla pointed to Kurdish-born Sweden-based Karzan Kader’s “Bekas,” a Kurdish-language pic shot in Iraq, and a Swedish-Kurdish co-production, as an example of a Eurimages-funded pic, with elements from both Europe and the Middle East, which is unspooling at the Dubai fest.

“Dubai is a big gateway into the Arab world and beyond,” said Eurimages’ Italian rep Alessandra Priante, who, significantly, is based in Abu Dhabi. “This is a first step towards Eurimages evolving and expanding.”

As for the EU-supported Medis distribution network, Euromed Audiovisual chief Valerio Caruso said that at this initial stage its goals are forging ties among Arab region distributors for collective rights’ purchases and hammering out a common anti-piracy effort. But the hope is to tap into more substantial EU film distribution funds, and to lay the foundation for modelling Medis on European distributor orgs Europa Cinemas and Europa Distribution. Medis will also help to get more European pics on Arab screens.

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