Polish helmer Jacek Blawut travels to the U.S., Poland, Russia and Germany to profile assorted players of the WWII computer game “IL-2 Sturmovik” in “Man at War.” Featuring more than 20 participants, the docu initially feels as crowded and difficult to follow as the sky-filling dogfights in which the gamers engage; as it turns out, the virtual combatants mostly consist of history buffs, many fascinated by fathers or grandfathers who fought in WWII. Friendly to non-gamers (long-suffering wives and perplexed pets feature prominently), this down-to-earth docu opened Nov. 23.
The game attracts obsessives of various ages and professions: The American squadron boasts a dentist/deacon, a musician and an Iraqi war vet. Some fixate on the war to teach the younger generation to revere their heroic ancestors; others simply crave getting in on the action, or even hope to rewrite the ending (certain Polish players hate the former USSR so fervently that they ahistorically fight on the German side). One tearful German cyber-ace, whose grandfather was responsible for exterminating untold thousands of Ukrainian Jews, embodies the game’s deeper ambivalence.