Tagged as the greatest party that never happened, Fyre Festival which was a brainchild of convicted American entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule was meant to be an ultra-exclusive luxury music festival at a lush Bahamas island held over two weekends in 2017. Tickets went for upwards of $12,000 (Ksh 1,200,000). They sold out in days.
The festival whipped up frenzy within the richest, most exclusive corners of Instagram mostly thanks to IG models like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner who were used to market the event. That’s until everything went south, badly.
Netflix’s new documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened provides a timeline of events leading up to what turned out to be the biggest scam of recent memory.
Up until several pictures, including one of a measly cheese sandwich went viral on Twitter, Fyre Festival remained relatively unknown to those outside its target demographic of young, rich Instagram millennials. McFarland and his business partner Ja Rule had planned to use the festival as a launch pad for Fyre, an online booking app for artists.
In the documentary, Chris Smith, the director, paints a variegated image of McFarland’s character. In a series of interviews with top members of the Fyre Festival’s planning team, he is described as charismatic, visionary, deceptive and disconnected from the reality around him. A perfect salesman, McFarland sold a grand concept to investors behind closed doors in board rooms and gullible youngsters on social media.
Fyre aptly places blame on McFarland and Ja Rule by chronicling their stubborn ignorance of logistical challenges, the lies told to investors and customers, and the human resource mismanagement that instigated the collapse of Fyre Festival and Fyre Media.
Chris Smith also takes on a compassionate angle towards its coverage of Fyre, unpacking it beyond the one dimensional vision of a rich person conning other rich people. It includes the accounts of day labourers owed $250,000 in wages, a restaurant owner who had to sink into her life’s savings of $50,000 to pay off workers linked to the festival, as well as members of his team who incurred huge credit debts on account of McFarland during the festival’s planning stage.
To create this timeline of events, Fyre leans heavily on witness accounts but ignores the elephant in the room; What happened to the money?
The documentary makes for great viewing if you are interested in how McFarland pulled off the biggest con of our generation. If you are looking for an in-depth commentary on the collapse of Fyre Festival then this might not be for you.
Fyre might be of interest to the frequent reveler because of how it dovetails into the chaotic behind-the-scenes of event organising, and how incidences like the disastrous Diner en Blanc-Nairobi 2018, an exclusive, all-white luxury dinner party that originated in Paris, can happen.
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