The story of 2017’s infamously doomed Fyre Festival would be catnip to any documentary filmmaker, and veteran director Chris Smith duly crafts one of the most alternately fascinating and cringe-worthy docs in recent memory.
For the uninitiated, the Fyre Festival was a planned luxury music festival spearheaded by young entrepreneur Billy McFarland and his rapper pal Ja Rule. With an idyllic remote island location selected bands like Blink-182, Major Lazer, G.O.O.D. Music and Disclosure booked to appear beautiful social media influences relentlessly posting about their enthusiasm for the event and 5,000 high priced tickets sold to the general public it seemed primed for opulent success.
But then the guests started turning up, and the rest is history.
McFarland and his huge team of employees weren’t remotely ready for the event which they hoped to pull off in a small matter of months rather than the full year one interview subject explains it would realistically take. Because the trainwreck that was the event itself has been so vociferously documented on social media and the news already.Smith instead opts to focus on the circumstances of the festival’s creation and planning headed at all times by a wildly over-optimistic, deluded McFarland.
If you’ve only skimmed the broad strokes of the story there are certainly some surprises in store here, not least that the festival was actually more a promotional exercise for the wider Fyre brand – an app owned by McFarland for booking talent for gigs – and clearly just a stepping stone in the hope of building a larger media empire. Through extensive interviews with McFarland’s bemused confidantes, a picture is painted of a man blind to practicalities, who simply hoped a positive, problem-solving attitude would be enough to steamroll the reality of the situation.
They didn’t have enough time they didn’t have enough real estate to accommodate 5,000 people, they hadn’t made staging preparations with less than two months to go, and their initial catering budget was more than 500% above what they could handle. That’s just the tip of it and naturally enough, despite the efforts of McFarland’s incredulous employees and hundreds of local islanders working around the clock – many of whom weren’t ever paid – the festival ended up cancelled…after hundreds of guests had already arrived.