The Ministry of Culture of Brazil has announced Selton Mello’s The Clown (O Palhaço) as the country’s official entry for best foreign-language film in the 85th Academy Awards.

The comedy-drama is a delicate trip through the universe of the circus, with some surreal moments. It beat out 15 other contenders.

After his debut as a director, with Feliz Natal (2008), Mello tells here the story of a clown (played by himself) in full existential crisis during a tour of a ragtag circus through small towns in Minas Gerais state. Despite hurting his father (Paulo Jose), with whom he forms a duet of clowns, the protagonist leaves the troupe in search of his own path.

The film was selected by a committee of critics, filmmakers, producers, representatives of the ministry and diplomats. Their decision was based on the film’s potential to communicate with large audiences, despite being conceived more as an art house title.

Released in Brazil in October 2011, The Clown attracted 1.4 million people to the local theaters, being the fifth highest-grossing Brazilian film of the year, with revenues of R$13.5 million ($6.6 million).

Last year The Clown (produced by Bananeira Filmes) also won four awards at the Paulínia Film Festival: best director, best screenplay, best supporting actor (Moacyr Franco) and best costume design.