Presented by Gavilán Theatre for the Toronto Fringe Festival 2021, Success Horizon is an experimental short film set in a dystopian yet uncomfortably familiar version of Toronto. This absurdist take on the housing crisis is presented in a stylized series of eerie tableaux.
The Tenant, just in from the prairies, is happy to have found a decent apartment, but as she tries to seal the deal, the nebulous workings of “The Trust” keep her off balance. There is no lease. Everything is “paperless” in this world where “cost is a dirty word.”
She hopes to teach financial literacy to homeless people, but this ambition falls apart as she learns that the “home free” community has come to accept their place in the status quo. Her every attempt to have any impact is thwarted by a barrage of vague platitudes.
Writer/Director Nawi Moreno-Valverde has crafted a truly unsettling atmosphere. There are moments that are undeniably hilarious—from a scatological/financial misunderstanding to the casual apathy of everyone around her. The humour is disquieting though, insidious detachment gnaws at its edges.
The cast—Bessie Cheng, Joanna Decc, Duncan Derry and Ryan Falconer—commit to a calm, almost monotone delivery that has an uncanny cumulative effect. The crude, understated aesthetic conveys such telling details. Alex Moyle’s figurines have a patina of rust or mold. This is echoed in S. M. Derigan’s overall design of the spaces, with their sense of urban decay creeping at the corners.
The ending chilled me to the bone. It conveys a nightmare reality of semantic trickery. A reassuring voice easing us into an acceptance of inequitable conditions by a gradual shifting of language and association. Success Horizon is very funny, but also terrifying in its implication—how serenely we can “learn to love the discomfort.”