ROME — The European Film Academy is making its first foray in the Persian Gulf by becoming a backer of the European Film Screenings initiative dedicated to disseminating European titles that do not have distribution in the region.

The screenings kick off Wednesday in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Hosted in multiplexes in both cities, the free event comprises 17 European titles representing a range of genres, from disturbing Austrian horror movie “Goodnight Mommy” to “Paddington,” the beloved British bear pic that was a huge family-film hit.

Other movies from Europe set to reach audiences in the United Arab Emirates for the first time include “The Lobster” (pictured), the surreal English-language satire by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos; Italian auteur Nanni Moretti’s bereavement drama, “My Mother”; and Swedish director Roy Anderson’s absurdist “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” the winner of the 2014 Venice Golden Lion.

A sidebar event will showcase six Arab feature films, also undistributed in the region, some of which are Arab-European co-productions. These include Algerian director Salem Brahimi’s “Let Them Come,” about a secular family contending with the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism during Algeria’s 1990s “dark decade.” EU co-production fund Eurimages is also supporting the screenings for the first time.

“The European Film Academy is very happy that it can help bring European films to Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” EFA director Marion Doring said in a statement. “Films, as we all know, are the best ambassadors for understanding other cultures and mentalities.” Doring produces the European Film Awards, the pan-European equivalent to the Oscars.

Now in their third edition, the European Film Screenings are becoming a prominent cultural event in the UAE partly filling a gap left when the Abu Dhabi film fest shuttered in 2015.

“This year’s program is one of the richest and most diverse of the three editions, with some of the most interesting and internationally acclaimed feature films from all over Europe, paired [with] an outstanding Arab feature film program,” said artistic director Alessandra Priante. “This brings the cultural dialogue through the language of cinema to a completely different level.”

The film screenings will be hosted by Novo Cinemas at its Abu Dhabi-based venue, the World Trade Center Mall Abu Dhabi, from Oct. 19 to 26, and at Ibn Battuta Mall and Dubai Festival City Mall in Dubai from Oct. 20 to 27.