Much like the infamous Dashcon, Fyre Festival has gone down in history as one of the most disastrous internet-borne events. But while both were mismanaged to the point of scamming their attendees, you can at least make the case with the former that the mistakes were more innocent, the financial losses less enormous, and the attendees themselves more sympathetic. The latter, however, revolved around the arrogance and carelessness of a wide variety of disgustingly wealthy individuals, and the working class people they ended up exploiting.
The general appearance and style of the documentary is pretty standard stuff, and the director Chris Smith didn’t really take many risks in his aesthetic or structural decisions. Essentially, Fyre follows the festival from conception to disintegration, using interviews with higher-ups in the company to paint a picture of the corruption involved at the top level of organisation. Despite some interesting examinations of the power of ‘influencer culture’ early on, this structure does mean that it takes a while to get to the meat of the issue, and though some elements are well explained (the notorious cheese sandwiches, for instance), you are left waiting for the ending to arrive at points.
For the most part, Fyre centres around the former CEO of Fyre Media Billy McFarland, who is indiscriminately described by the various talking heads of the documentary as a ‘genius/madman’. Everyone involved is dazzled by his wealth and charisma, which apparently clouded their judgement to the point of not even attempting to stand up to him. I get tired of this kind of narrative very quickly – rather than actively trying to investigate Billy’s upbringing and the motivations (or lack thereof) he had when organizing Fyre Festival, they dismiss him as some kind of exceptional person, who has access to this wealth and influence almost purely because of his background. Billy MacFarland is just a regular person corrupted by his ludicrous amounts of money, who lacks enough empathy to care about the people he scammed – namely, the lower level workers in the company.
Once the average viewer has heard all of the financial figures as they’re thrown around by workers and customers, it’s more than likely that all the sympathy they previously had for the victims will be null and void. This festival by design was to cater to the 1%, and even though from the marketing, buildup, and subsequent fallout this can be easily inferred, hearing people state in interviews that they genuinely spent upwards of $50,000 on tickets and other extras still made me physically flinch. As a documentary, Fyre tries its best to be an objective analysis of the events that took place, but much like Shane Dawson’s various attempts at this kind of filmmaking, it often comes off as sensationalist, and as not vilifying people who perhaps do deserve to be.
For anyone else who was intrigued by what took place at Fyre Fest, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is worth popping on your TV. Just be prepared to come away a little unsatisfied, and wanting to eat the rich.