The Dubai Filmmart, which is the planet’s main market for Arab cinema and a prime platform for Asian and African pics, is strengthening its European ties this year.

During Filmmart, which runs Dec. 9-16 concurrently with the fest, some 60 reps from European co-production fund Eurimages will descend on Dubai for their first-ever board meeting outside Europe, just as Eurimages mulls forging new links with non-European countries.

“Of course, it will be a great networking opportunity,” says Dubai mart manager Pascal Diot, who also heads the new Venice Film Festival market.

In another sign that Dubai’s Filmmart, now at its fifth edition, is building bridges with the European Union, Euromed Audiovisual, the film unit of the EU program that supports dialogue between cultures in the Mediterranean basin, is going to have its first general meeting there. This move is designed to establish a network of Mediterranean distributors from a wide range of countries, spanning from France and Italy to Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco.

Also, as of last year, Dubai has an agreement with the Mip TV mart for winners of its Muhr awards to screen at Mip.

And as part of this exchange this year Mip is organizing a Broadcasters Day in Dubai.

Other novelties include links, not surprisingly, with the Venice mart, but also with France’s Annecy festival and market dedicated to animation, and with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture AFAC, which will have seven pics screening and four participating projects.

Besides being the only bona fide market in the Gulf region, the Dubai mart’s distinctive trait is that it has initiatives dedicated to every stage of the filmmaking process: the Interchange training program, in collaboration with European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs org (Eave) and the Torino Film Lab; co-production through the the Dubai Film Connection, which supports some 15 Arab films per year; post-production funding, Enjaaz; and sales and distribution.

Filmmart proper will screen around 300 works in its digital video library, mostly from Arab and Asian-African directors, more than half of which unspooling at the fest.

More than 1,100 industry professionals were signed up by late November. Some, for the first time, also booked booths, mostly for use by film commissions.

In another first, Diot has hired seven international consultants — including Julie Bergeron, manager of the Cannes Film Festival’s Producers Network — who will be on hand at the mart to provide professional advice and also act as matchmakers.

Gulf films boost Dubai fest slate