Netflix Fyre Island documentary: the most eye opening film of 2019


Sophia Iacona

400 hundred plus people stranded on an island, with nothing by soaked mattresses, hurricane tents and limited bottles of waters. It may sound like a scene straight out of “Lord of Flies”, but it happened and the Netflix documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened”, captures all the humor and horror of the events that unfolded at the Fyre Music Festival.
When the documentary premiered on Jan. 18, it quickly drew the attention of the mainstream media and social media users alike. The events of the Fyre Festival, which began to unfold on April 18, 2017, were heavily talked about on social media but much was unknown. Prior to the documentary airing, many pop culture followers were aware the the festival itself was a complete failure — an event advertised as a luxurious getaway to a private island with beautiful models (including advertisers Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid), private yacht parties and even a performance by Drake. Unfortunately, and quite humorlessly for twitter users, 400 hundred ticket holders who paid anywhere from $1k to $125k to attend, arrived to a broken down campsite that looked nothing like the luxurious festival advertised. When the media got a hold of the events, after a photo of a cheese sandwich that was served to festival goers went viral, a no-holds-bar roast of the seemingly wealthy and gullible ticket holders ensued. Fyre Festival was merely a joke until the release of “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened” and the documentary casts a serious light on the events of the iconic weekend.
The documentary brings the viewer into the true beginning of the festival, with first hand video clips of the planning process and interviews with Fyre employees who played an integral part in the build up and disaster. But the documentary does not cast blame on these employees, many of whom were enthusiastic about the project but also vocal in their doubts about the time frame and false advertisements. Instead, the doc dissects the motivations and actions of Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur behind Fyre Festival, who managed to sway investors into giving money to several failing businesses of his. Fyre Festival was merely another stab for McFarland at stealing from Peter to pay Paul. He racked up thousands of dollars on Fyre employee’s personal credit cards and forged documents to dupe investors into giving him money for the festival, while the money instead went to pay off the debts of past business ventures. McFarland is not interviewed for the documentary, but instead his employees and video clips from the planning process give insight into his personality: threatening employees not to tell investors the truth about how horrible the planning process was going, telling employees to continuously lie on social media about the level of “luxury” that the festival was going to offer and even putting a 20 year old with no experience in charge of booking top-notch acts with little more than three months notice.
The famous rapper Ja Rule also worked hand and hand with McFarland to dream up the event, but little is known about his actual involvement. While the doc doesn’t touch much on the rapper’s actual knowledge of what was going on, it does highlight his complete aloofness after the event.
After a Fyre employee expressed that he feels the company committed an at of fraud on a company phone call after the team fled the Bahamas, Ja Rule is heard replying, “That’s not fraud. That is, uh… I would call that… false advertising.”
The documentary itself does a wonderful job at crushing rumors and explaining the seemingly un-explainable event; how hundreds of wealthy festival goers could be swindled into showing up to a disaster zone with little to no leaks about what was truly going on on the island. Prior to the documentary, Fyre Festival lived its life on the timelines of social media users, but Netflix was able to cut through the negativity, jokes and rumors in order to tell the true story of the festival as best as possible.
The film making is all first hand tape that was recorded before, during and after the festival, giving the viewer never before seen footage into the festival, with raw interviews from ex Fyre employees and a chronological timeline of storytelling that cuts down on the confusion surrounding the event.
Most interesting and upsetting to viewers, the documentary shows the eventual outcome of the employees and McFarland himself. While the employees recount their debt and lack of unemployment benefits that they continue to deal with, clips of McFarland in his million dollar New york City apartment swindling more people with another scam business venture are shown. It leaves the viewer with a feeling of anger at McFarland, who seemingly never got what he deserved and pity towards the employees, who collectively were trying to do the right thing by shutting down the event, but instead were held captive, with their paychecks dangling over their head.
In addition, the documentary is able to cast light on an aspect of the event not many social media users thought about — the people of Great Exuma where the festival took place. A heart wrenching interview with the woman hired to feed all the workers setting up the actual festival, reveals the hurt that the event did to the island. Day-laborers still remain unpaid and the chef used $50,000 of her own savings to pay off the 10 workers that she hired to help her.
“The remorse I feel is crushing,” McFarland said during his sentencing, Vice News reported. “I lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”
The effects of the Fyre Festival are far reaching and the “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened” does a beautiful job at capturing the nativity and hurt that the event carried.