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Cannes winners get raucous welcome home

Nowhere has excitement over the French Palme d'Or winner "The Class" ("Entre les Murs") been felt as keenly as at the Francoise Dolto school in Paris, where the film was shot. The young cast returned to class for a full-blown celebrity welcome.

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The young cast of "The Class", which picked up the Palme d'Or at Cannes for its glimpse of life in a rough Paris high school, were mobbed by adoring classmates as they arrived home Monday.

Dozens of teenagers, surrounded by a media scrum, gave the first-time actors a raucous welcome back to their school in eastern Paris, where the film was shot over the course of last year by 46-year-old director Laurent Cantet.

"It's crazy what's happening to us!" giggled 25-year-old Rabah Naitoufella, one of two dozen real-life students who starred in the film.

"When I heard Sean Penn say 'The Claaassss' -- I thought I was going to burst," he said, tired but ecstatic from his night of red-carpet glory and long bus ride home.

Based on the bestselling memoir of French teacher Francois Begaudeau, "The Class" on Sunday became the first homegrown French movie in two decades to claim the coveted Palme d'Or.

School headmaster Jean-Claude Defaux said he was "very, very happy" for the film's success, but warned that its multicultural young cast were "not stars" and said he would step in if necessary to "ensure they remain students."

"They are very, very good in the film, but they are first and foremost great teenagers -- and some have exams to pass."

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