Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

TV shows to watch this Anzac Day

One year after the Gallipoli centennial, the focus of Anzac Day television coverage has widened and moved on.

Though there will still be live coverage from the service at Anzac Cove (Maori TV from 2.30pm) and at least two documentaries tracing modern-day pilgrimages to Gallipoli by New Zealanders, the World War I centennial has progressed.

This year marks 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, one of the biggest battles of that war in northern France, involving the New Zealand Division, which included many who had fought in Gallipoli and the NZ Pioneer (Maori) Battalion.

Maori TV is bringing out a big gun for its main Somme commemoration - Dame Kiri Te Kanawa features in Sacrifice on the Somme (screening 8am and 6.30pm).

In the doco, Dame Kiri travels to the battleground with her young opera protege Kawiti Waetford.

While the opera superstar reflects on the stories of several Maori soldiers, Waetford is on a mission to visit the grave of his great-great-grandfather, who served with the battalion and died in Northern France.

The British-based Dame Kiri has visited historic battlegrounds frequently over the years, especially those where New Zealanders fought.

"I believe that one of the ways we can honour that sacrifice, is to learn about it," she says.

In between coverage of the dawn service from Auckland War Memorial Museum and the national Commemorative Service from the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington (11am), One is screening two new documentaries.

Sons of Gallipoli was made by students at Auckland's Sacred Heart College, who visited the battleground where four old boys of the school were killed in action to honour the fallen.

The most ambitious new Anzac documentary on offer isn't historic but contemporary. The riveting Our Navy: Sailing Into History follows the 2015 six-month deployment of the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate, Te Kaha.

Scene from Our Navy: Sailing Into History.
Scene from Our Navy: Sailing Into History.

If recent news of RNZN coastal patrol ships sitting idle at Devonport naval base might make you think the navy hasn't enough to do, then this doco could persuade you otherwise.

Te Kaha's mission made its own headlines with its high seas seizure of $235 million worth of heroin off the Horn of Africa. There's some gripping footage of just how that happened in the hour-long programme.

That it's bookended by affecting teary family goodbyes and welcome homes all might make you wonder - especially given its high production values and its narration by One News anchor Simon Dallow - why it isn't screening in prime time?

After all, it's got drugs, big guns and plenty of engaging telegenic characters too.
The programme follows Te Kaha as it leaves Devonport, undertakes some realistic drills at sea - a simulated crash on the chopper deck resembles an early Peter Jackson splatter movie - then heads to Turkey where the ship was part of naval honour guard duties at last year's Anzac commemoration before heading on its drug-hunt mission.

Why the naval war on drugs? Because that heroin funds terrorism.

Scene from Our Navy: Sailing Into History.
Scene from Our Navy: Sailing Into History.

This doco is part of the navy's 75th anniversary, so there's some wider military history too with cameras briefly following the HMNZS Wellington on an excursion to the Solomon Islands, where the crew honour New Zealand sailors killed in WWII's Pacific campaigns.

It's probable that Our Navy is an officially sanctioned study, especially given there's a curious lack of shouting or anything resembling military manners in the onboard footage.

And surely, Te Kaha's young company can't all be such nice young people?

Maybe they are. Ones like newbie Ryan Langford who has two grandmas seeing him off, along with a proud mum who says her son has bloomed in the service. Ryan gets a double-nana farewell and a 21-gun salute on his return and a medal along the way.

In between, is a highly enjoyable look at what those ships of ours - the ones that make it to sea - actually do.

TV picks

What: Sacrifice on the Somme
Where: Maori TV
When: 8am and 6.30pm, Monday

What: Our Navy: Sailing Into History
Where: One
When: 10am Monday

- TimeOut

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