The "villas" where the Fyre Festival attendees were made to stay in were far from luxurious—they were actually hurricane tents left over from Hurricane Matthew.
Culture Movies

REVIEW: You can’t stop looking amidst the chaos in Fyre, The Greatest Party That Never Happened

The documentary on the 2017 social media disaster is a dissection on privilege, ambition, and the darker depths of the FOMO culture.
Andrew Paredes | Jan 30 2019

Directed by Chris Smith

Streaming on Netflix

If all you knew about the disastrous fail that was the 2017 Fyre Festival was the toast, cheese, and salad picture that blew up Twitter, then you’re in luck: Netflix’s new documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is drawing the curtain back on what happened behind the scenes—and it is even more bonkers than you could have ever imagined. (Even more bonkers? Twitter users are salivating over a possible feud between Netflix and rival Hulu, which released a competing documentary, Fyre Fraud, four days before Netflix dropped theirs.)

Festivalgoers were promised a gourmet meal, but what they were served was a deconstructed cheese sandwich.

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened unpacks the shenanigans committed by the festival’s young-tycoon-turned-convicted-felon Billy McFarland, who used the allure of go-getter entrepreneurship to bilk investors out of millions, and the FOMO neurosis of the social media generation to sell tickets. It has the same riveting quality as The Big Short, in that you can hardly believe fiscal malfeasance was allowed to run wild even though clearer heads saw downfall coming from a mile away.

Fyre Festival co-creators Ja Rule and Billy McFarland

The documentary has its share of trenchant humor (a veteran events producer testifies that he was ready to perform fellatio on a Customs commissioner who was holding the festival’s water supply hostage) and acid satire (festival goers are portrayed as gullible children, loading thousands of dollars into RFID festival bracelets despite numerous red flags). But as the story unfolds, it gets darker and darker: There are first-hand accounts of looting among attendees, and unpaid workers in the Bahamas threatening bodily harm to anyone remotely connected to the festival.

McFarland was sentenced to six years in federal prison on wire fraud charges in Oct. 2018

The real victims, as they are in wide-ranging scams, are ordinary working people. The catastrophe that was the Fyre Festival basically dragged the Manhattan startup it was supposed to promote to ruination. Even more devastating is an interview with a Bahamian restaurateur who sank $50,000 of her own savings into feeding workers and disgruntled tourists, only to have McFarland blow through her nest egg and “never look back.”

This Bahamian restaurateur had to feed workers and disgruntled tourists.

And what of the monster in this real-life horror movie? Even out on bail, Billy McFarland was busy selling tickets to “exclusive” events that don’t admit outsiders, still manipulating this age of connectivity’s neurotic impetus to be included. And as in any horror movie, the monster surprises with a final appearance just before the end credits roll. The implication is clear: In a society where bigger crimes translate to bigger notoriety, it is conceivable that Billy McFarland might actually keep on partying.


Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is on Netflix.