Netflix released a new documentary on Jan. 18 titled “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.” It surrounds the events of Fyre Festival, a music festival that was supposed to take place on a private island in the Bahamas back in 2017. The key word here is “supposed,” because the event fell apart and quickly turned to chaos.
If you were on social media at all back in the summer of 2017, you probably remember the drama. Most people just know about the outcome of the entire ordeal; thousands of rich kids stuck on a luxury island with very little food, security and housing. The internet blamed those privileged individuals for spending (and thus losing) thousands of dollars on a festival they knew very little about. But the story is a lot more complex than that, and the documentary seeks to tell it.
“The Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music experience on a posh private island, but it failed spectacularly in the hands of a cocky entrepreneur,” Netflix writes.
The festival started as a way for creators Billy McFarland and Ja Rule to advertise their new Fyre booking app, which sought to make it easier to book music talent for events. Unfortunately, they didn’t actually have the means to make such a large event happen.
The documentary interviews many of the people involved in the Fyre Festival, from the event producer to people who worked on the app to the models paid to come. Most notably, it features a lot of clips with McFarland and Rule speaking about their plans for the festival. Their cockiness is honestly headache-inducing. Plus, you can actually see them treat the models and their workers terribly. As a viewer, you’re basically waiting for them to fail.
It’s fascinating to see how strong the festival, or really the company as a whole, started. McFarland hired “the best of the best” for everything from advertising to music, and his old employees all remark about how charismatic and trustworthy he seemed. Everything, at first, went smoothly. They bought an island and the commercial for the event included 10 of the top supermodels in the world, from Bella Hadid to Hailey Baldwin.
While making the commercial, the creators filmed pretty much everything, including conversations about the event. This is where a lot of the documentary footage about what happened before the festival comes from.
The festival was described as “the cultural experience of the decade” and sold 95 percent of the avalible tickets in under 48 hours. I’d argue it turned out to be the biggest fail of the decade.
We’re used to seeing events fall apart. From Fyre Festival to DashCon to TannaCon, we’ve seen these kinds of events blow up and have watched people fight to get their money back and sue the creators. But we often blame the catastrophes on the creator being intentionally misleading or dumb; we don’t often see what happened behind the scenes that led to everything going wrong.
The documentary gives an interesting take on the power of social media and celebrities, and how easily these forces can be used to manipulate people. It was striking to see what lengths people will go to in order to feel like they’re a part of a celebrity circle. It also gives an interesting perspective on how this catastrophe happened in the first place.
The story behind Fyre Festival is frustrating: It is the tale of two guys who refused to listen to criticism, who wanted things done their way, even when they were told it wasn’t possible and it wasn’t safe. It is the tale of two guys who fired people who told them they couldn’t do what they wanted to do. And ultimately, the consequences became pretty obvious when the news stories began to break back in 2017.
The documentary was fascinating to watch. Like many, I heard of the aftermath, but understanding how it happened and why was both interesting and baffling. We’ve all heard of big mistakes but rarely get to see the play-by-play of how they happened. It felt largely like a modern-day “Lord of the Flies” scenario, and if you didn’t know the story was true, the entire thing could easily be taken as satire.
Overall, I think the documentary was definitely worth watching, and I’d highly recommend it if you need something to procrastinate with this week. Watching it almost feels like watching a mystery, as you’re slowly figuring out what went wrong and yelling at the person responsible, even though you can’t change anything. It was a fun watch and I’d definitely recommend it.
Courtney Gavitt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.