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Dances With Films

This is a Business

This is a Business

The movies that screen at “Dances With Films” don’t arrive with much prefestival buzz, but are propelled instead by a wave of enthusiasm and hope on the part of their makers, and also the festival’s programmers, who have a sweetly uncynical desire to give new filmmakers a shot at Hollywood glory. In the festival’s ninth year, this egalitarian spirit is exemplified perfectly by Michael Sammaciccia’s Always Will, a vibrantly edited teen drama shot at two suburban Pennsylvania schools over the course of one academic year, with the cooperation of staff and students alike. Their onscreen presence brings scale and authenticity to a clever tale of a 15-year-old boy who discovers a way to go back in time to repair his mistakes. Tom Stern’s endearingly quirky This Is a Business takes place almost entirely in one tiny, windowless office, where a young would-be entrepreneur and his two assistants sit, day after day, trying to think of what exactly their new business should be. Short on action but never dull, the film contains wry comic touches — the hero’s wife is training herself to be an ace gift wrapper — and the resonant notion that perhaps our worldly needs have been met a little too completely. John Putch’s Mojave Phone Booth was inspired by Internet reports of a working phone booth dating back to World War II in the middle of the desert. In loosely overlapping segments, Putch sends four Vegas residents out to that booth, where they tell their tales of love and betrayal to a woman who calls the booth regularly. This rather precious setup works surprisingly well, thanks to some nice turns of plot and mournfully weary performances from a cast that includes Annabeth Gish and Robert Romanus, who, to some of us, will forever be Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Mike Damone, ticket scalper. (Laemmle Fairfax, July 21-27. www.danceswithfilms.com)

—Chuck Wilson