FYRE Documentary Excellently Captures the Festival’s Failure

Jared Schmitt, Staff Writer

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The Fyre Festival promised so much in its ad campaign: it promised an affordable trip to a private island in the Bahamas where big artists would perform while guests eat food from celebrity chefs at their private villas. In reality, however, they got disaster relief tents, a local band and a cheese sandwich. “FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” released on Jan. 18, captured the trainwreck from its conception and the aftermath with an amazing level of detail including extensive interviews with people who worked on the production of the festival and some festival attendees. The documentary expertly dissects both the failings of production and the sociopathic tendencies of Billy McFarland, the founder of FYRE Media and the organizer of the festival, while using glamour shots similar to the ones he used in the initial video. With sleek presentation and an amazing atmosphere, “FYRE” is an enthralling documentary that both entertains and informs.

Netflix does an excellent job setting the scene at the beginning of the documentary with a sweeping drone shot of an island in similar fashion to the promotional video put out by McFarland’s team. The film does an excellent job at capturing how ill prepared the group was. This includes revealing the initial idea was a throw away pitch at a meeting for the launching of the FYRE talent booking app. The producers do an excellent job of juxtaposing videos of McFarland and Ja Rule, an American rapper who was helping create the festival, discussing how well things were going before quickly cutting to someone else discussing how they were not prepared for it at all. They brought in people from all levels of the operation in a way where viewers could see the way different sets of people viewed both him and his project while also discussing the ways in which he displayed sociopathic tendencies, such as telling someone he would be the ultimate team player if he degraded himself to get something out of customs.

The presentation of the documentary is stellar. The producers took influence from the Fyre Festival promotional video and seamlessly transitioned between talking head points and glamour shots of the Bahamas from the ad campaign and new shots taken for the film. The film also benefited from the large video collection that McFarland and his crew shot while setting up the festival, giving the viewer a unique, fly-on-the-wall perspective. The producers also benefited from the large collection of video that festival-goers captured in the brief time they were there. The use of both old and new footage combined to create a chaotic atmosphere as time went on and helped to fit the subject well.

“FYRE” does an exceptional job of both discussing the failures of the festival and the reality of who Billy McFarland really is, and the combined sleek presentation and frantic atmosphere make it a stellar documentary. Although the Fyre Festival happened in 2017, it still felt like the viewer watched it crash and burn in real time: in every way that the festival failed, the documentary succeeded, and because of this, it is a documentary that everyone should see.