A Fiery Lesson in Hubris
Review: Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
The principle that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), sells is well known. To really be a success, however, an event needs to deliver.
In 2017, a festival with unprecedented hype turned into what looked more like a bizarre social experiment. Soon afterwards, a story emerged that painted the picture of a con man, his famous rapper accomplice, and a team of professionals and social media influencers duped into supporting his scheme.
The Fyre Festival was meant to deliver a prestigious and exclusive experience where high-spending revellers would rub shoulders with the rich and famous on a private island while music played. What they got was a flooded and overcrowded camp site with no running water or air conditioning, plastic cheese sandwiches to eat, and all acts cancelled. None of the luxury villas that attendees paid for existed. More importantly, there were threats to their safety, with reports of heavy-handed security and a medical tent that no one could exit. The site was evacuated on the second night.
Netflix are streaming one of two documentaries that have been made about what happened at the festival. It’s a portrait of egos and manias that feed one another. As the doomed event gets closer, demands become more bizarre and it becomes increasingly clear that the event’s chief organiser, entrepreneur Billy McFarland, is duping everyone.
Even after the event, in the washup and the analysis, it seems that the organisers are equal parts delusional and manipulative. In a telephone conference, it seems clear to everyone other than McFarland and Ja Rule that there is no coming back from the event.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened brings viewers right into the thick of things. As McFarland clearly wanted everything recorded for posterity, the filmmakers had access to the events leading up to the calamity that was the festival. The documentary captures quite the train wreck in motion, going from disaster, to horror film, to comedy, to exposé.
Fyre: The Party That Never Happened is also a stunning condemnation of the vapidity of certain aspects of social media, including the false promotion of a high-end lifestyle. This also extends to the very concept of social media ‘influencers’ themselves, who in this case promoted a product that did not exist, in exchange for money.
The documentary has already done some good. One of MacFarland’s victims, Maryann Roll is the owner of the Exuma Point Resort. Left over $100,000 out of pocket because she persisted in paying staff even when McFarland did not provide the agreed-upon amount. A Go Fund Me campaign, put together after the documentary first dropped, raised over $180,000 for her.
In many ways, Fyre: The Party That Never Happened shows the power of documentaries and the impact of lies and hubris.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is streaming now on Netflix
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor