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Defiance, duplicity and the indie power of streaming helped strengthen film in 2016

Activist Ye Haiyan from the movie "Hooligan Sparrow."
(Nanfu Wang)

Our reviewers weigh in with lists of under-seen movies from 2016, as well as trends they’d like to see more and less of.

“Hooligan Sparrow”: Of the year’s many activism-themed documentaries, few have illustrated the potent urgency of bearing witness like Nanfu Wang’s portrait of tireless Asian women’s rights crusader Ye Haiyan, which serves as a gripping reminder of the power of a single defiant voice in this troubling era of indifference.

“Transpecos”: The parched terrain of the West Texas Chihuahuan Desert provides a palpably gritty backdrop for first-time director Greg Kwedar’s masterfully understated crime thriller about a trio of border guards who find themselves awash in duplicity and moral dilemma.

“The Love Witch”: Anna Biller’s Technicolor-steeped sophomore effort dresses themes of female objectification and empowerment in the scantily clad guise of a ’70s sexploitation flick. Samantha Robinson conveys a frosty allure as an enchantress who reduces men to messes.

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Year in review: Entertainment 2016 »

“The Ones Below”: A tautly calibrated domestic thriller about an expectant suburban London couple whose fragile relationship crumbles under the weight of pent-up guilt and paranoia activated by the arrival of their downstairs neighbors. Screenwriter David Farr’s directorial debut  is anchored by terrifically modulated turns from Clémence Poésy and Laura Birn.

“The Department Q” trilogy: While “The Keeper of Lost Causes,” “The Absent One” and “A Conspiracy of Faith” are uniformly stylish and intelligent, it’s the compelling yin-yang dynamic provided by a hardened homicide detective (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his more personable Muslim partner (Fares Fares) that makes these Nordic Noir imports well worth investigating.

More, please: That endangered species known as the independent film has suddenly found a viable ally in the form of streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix. Stream on!

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No más: . Contrary to popular Hollywood belief, not every drug dealer, domestic, taxi driver or landscaper happens to be a person of color.

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