Tuesday 6 September 2011, 12:50
It's perhaps not surprising that I became a film curator.
I come from a family who documented their lives through home movies over a period of almost 60 years.
Every few years we hold a grand screening, projecting the films onto a sheet at the bottom of the garden.
Melvyn Bragg looks at films of the World War Two evacuation.
I work with the BFI's team of curators and, led by my colleagues Jan Faull and Simon McCallum, we selected hundreds of films that were shortlisted for use in the series.
Among my favourites that made it to the final cut is the brief, but evocative footage of the 1895 Derby (the oldest surviving British film); SS Olympic (1910), a spectacular film about the building of the Titanic's sister ship and We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959), a groundbreaking documentary focusing on the lives of a group of working class teenagers in south east London.
Seeing the boys reunited for the series 52 years later is remarkable and emotional - their lives having moved in directions that their teenage selves could never have guessed.
It is this connection between the films and the original participants that makes the series so compelling for me.
The sequence that I enjoyed the most was from the episode celebrating the British seaside holiday.
Here we see extracts from Holiday (1957), an exuberant portrait of ordinary people enjoying the kiss-me-quick pleasures of Blackpool.
On board the rollercoaster at the beginning of the film and screaming for all she's worth is a teenage girl, clearly making the most of her 15 seconds of fame.
I've seen the film a number of times over the years and for some reason the young woman's face stuck in my memory.
Remarkably, the production team managed to track her down.
Sandra was not planning to ride the rollercoaster that day.
She was out for a walk in Blackpool, spotted by the director and asked if she'd pose on the rollercoaster for the camera.
You get the impression that screaming was really not Sandra's style, but that was what the director wanted, so that was what Sandra did.
And very convincing she was, too.
It's only a brief and seemingly insignificant moment, but it tells us a lot about filmmaking: don't believe everything you see.
Even if a film purports to be factual, it will be riddled with little fictions.
Robin Baker is the head curator of the BFI National Archive.
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