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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 10:01 GMT
French critics honour reality TV
Protestors at M6 head office
Protesters complained contestants were treated like mice
France's leading highbrow cinema magazine has caused a stir by picking a reality TV show as one of the year's top 10 films.

Critics from the renowned Cahiers du Cinema put the show Loft Story, the French answer to Big Brother, at joint 10th in its annual list.

Three of them actually made it their choice as film of the year.

Some of Loft Story's female contestants
Contestants were encouraged to pair up
Loft Story created a wave of controversy when it first aired in France in April 2001 as a group of men and women went into house with the aim of finding a mate.

Morality campaigners were up in arms that young people were being encouraged to pair off with the promise of big francs at the end.

Avant garde

There was picketing and rioting outside the television studios as people accused TV executives of keeping people locked in like chickens.

But the show gripped the nation as audiences of up to 10 million tuned in to catch up with the antics such as naked hot tub frolics.

"Cahiers du Cinema is most closely associated with the directors of the French new wave such as Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut, but rarely has it done something as avant garde as this," said BBC correspondent James Coomarasamy.

"The decision is sure to upset French cinema purists but it does reflect the amazing response the show had in France."

Household names

Loft Story protests
Hundreds of protesters tried to break into the set
Such was the impact of Loft Story, and the subsequent demonstrations, the French broadcasting authority stepped in to limit the amount of time cameras could film to maintain "human dignity".

The show mirrored the UK's Big Brother by turning its contestants into household names, particularly winner Loanna.

Once she left the confines of the loft she and her co-winner Christophe had to move in together for 45 days in order to win the show.

Newspapers were full of critical debates about the fall in television standards.

"And while French intellectuals may have bemoaned the arrival of reality TV, the Cahiers du Cinema poll suggests not only were some of them watching the programme, they were enjoying it as well, " added Mr Coomarasamy.

See also:

06 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Winners bid adieu to Loft Story
20 May 01 | TV and Radio
Loft Story under siege
30 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
French Big Brother faces censors
24 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Big Brother contestants muzzled
17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Dee big winner of Big Brother
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Big Brother scores hat-trick
16 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Life with Big Brother
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