Many may be vaguely aware of the Fyre Festival. A music festival on the Bahamian island Great Exuma where swaths of millennials traveled, expecting the new Coachella from entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. Little did anyone know it would become one of the most disastrous start-ups in history.
Celebrities scheduled to arrive canceled at the last minute. Luxurious villas were nothing more than disaster relief tents. The fancy food was plain cheese sandwiches. It soon devolved into the Instagram generation’s Lord of the Flies. And with Netflix’s newest documentary Fyre, viewers go behind the scenes to see how it all unfolds.
The documentary largely consists of interviews from the event organizers and former associates. Director Chris Smith use these interviews to lay out the scene as to how the festival became what it was. It not only works as an introduction, helping the unaware be more familiar with Fyre Festival, but illustrates the main crux for how Fyre fell apart: Billy McFarland. Just about all of the people who worked with him on this endeavor talk about his experience with him, and how much of a sociopath the man is.
It pulls no punches in how McFarland rushed this festival, put others in danger and humiliation, as well as many of the workers forced into his nightmare of a production later find themselves in financial ruin. However, Ja Rule, the other creator, doesn’t get the same attention. He more or less disappears after the first act. Maybe his dirt isn’t as bad, but it’s still strange. Where’s his accountability?
Regardless, while the first half is entertaining, once the film depicts the actual festival, it truly shines. Including a couple testimonies from festival patrons, Fyre showcases the chaos unfold, showing just how bad these customers had it. And while it’s arguable whether one should feel sorry for them, their plight is understandable. These people just wanted to have a good time on an island, yet had a terrible experience. The most powerful moment comes when it talks about the viral photo of a plain cheese sandwich, and how social media can impact public perception.
While Fyre may not rewrite the documentary handbook, it is still quite captivating. It works in explaining and deconstructing the work done for Fyre Festival. But it smartly pins the blame on the puppet master in charge of everything, and works as an engaging piece, slowly revealing a train wreck about to unfold. I don’t have Hulu, so I can’t judge Fyre Fraud. But as is, Netflix’s Fyre is entertaining enough.