RIO DE JANEIRO — Director-actor Selton Mello’s “O palhaco” (The Clown), a Bananeira Filmes’ production, is Brazil’s representative in the Oscar’s foreign language race.A seven-person committee of reps from the film industry, critics and government announced the decision Thursday. Mello plays Benjamin, who works with his father (Paulo Jose), as a clown in the circus where he grew up. He undergoes an existential crisis, gives up the circus’ life and gets a regular job. An arthouse pic, “The Clown” surprised analysts by earning a healthy 13.5 million reals ($6.8 million), boosted by positive word of mouth. It was distribbed by Imagem in October on 135 screens, an average release in the country. Pic nabbed top prizes in the Paulinia Festival and in most annual industry and critics’ kudo competitions, making it the rare example of a pic pleasing both moviegoers and critics. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the five nominees for best foreign film on Jan. 10. The 85th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Feb. 24.