This year’s Singapore International Film Festival (April 15-24) will open with Mao’s Last Dancer, directed by Bruce Beresford.

Beresford and the lead actor of the film, Chi Cao, will both attend the festival, which also announced that Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa’s Dear Doctor has been set as the closing film. Dear Doctor won best screenplay and best supporting actress at this year’s Japan Academy Awards.

In total the festival will screen 230 films from more than 45 countries with highlights including the Singapore Panorama, German Film Focus and Sri Lankan night.

The German focus will screen six features, including Peter Timm’s Beloved Berlin Wall and Sonke Wortmann’s Pope Joan, while Sri Lankan night will present a double bill of Prasanna Vithanage’s Akasa Kusum and Bennett Rathnayake’s Ira Handa Yata.

The festival has also introduced three new sidebars – Dance: Movement In Film, exploring performance and the creative process of dance; Women In Film, and the New York Avant Cinema Series, which will feature the Asian premieres of work from contemporary New York filmmakers.

“This year’s festival has a strong niche program focusing on films that reflect optimism, hope and confidence in the future, as seen in the opening and closing films,” said festival chairman Geoff Malone.

The Silver Screen Awards and gala dinner will be held on April 22 where prizes will be awarded in the Asian Feature Film Competition and the Singapore Short Film Competition.