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The Trailer for Netflix’s Fyre Festival Documentary Will Make You Want to Eat the Rich


If you’re not already in the mood for a revolution, Netflix’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened may well change that.

Back in April of 2017—it seems like a long time ago—a planned music festival on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma imploded. “Planned” is a generous word, because Fyre was a disaster totally unprepared to meet the needs of its attendees, many of whom had shelled out thousands of dollars for what was touted as a luxury experience. Instead of their promised villas, they found leaky tents and bare mattresses; instead of the advertised gourmet meals, there were—gasp—cheese sandwiches.

While the Internet and the media gazed at Fyre’s unraveling in real time with rapt fascination and not a little schadenfreude, attempts to understand what had happened were as immediate. Festival founder Billy McFarland (aided by rapper Ja Rule) came under intense scrutiny, and eventually was subject to eight lawsuits resulting from the mess. Spoiler alert: McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud in 2018, pleading guilty to wire fraud and defrauding a ticket vendor.

But if McFarland’s sentencing may be the end of the story, there’s clearly a lot to tell of Fyre’s beginnings, the scramble to put on some kind of event, and just how everything went so wrong. Netflix’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a documentary that hits the streaming service on January 18th. The doc is directed by Chris Smith, who previously directed the Emmy-nominated Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, which is a fascinating look at Jim Carey’s deeply method tactics for playing the great comedian Andy Kaufman in the movie Man on the Moon.

No one deserves to be defrauded, and there were safety concerns that met those attendees who actually made it to the Bahamas that shouldn’t be laughed at. But there’s no denying the element of schadenfreude that accompanies all discussions of Fyre. As the trailer demonstrates, the festival became an immediate meme as attendees took to social media with their complaints about food and lodging. You can see one such meme flash by onscreen: “WE WERE PROMISED ARUGULA.”

Fyre tickets sold out in the first place because they were promoted (for a lot of money) by Instagram “influencers” like Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid; it felt as though the festival’s manifestation was like pulling back the curtain on just how tenuous and vacuous “influencer” culture is. And of course, it was difficult for the watching world to sympathize with the plight of people who could shell out thousands of dollars for a weekend music festival, then be outraged at the sight of a cheese sandwich. That sandwich looks pretty damn good to me.

FYRE arrives on Netflix next week, and it’s quite possible that the US government will still be shut down. As furloughed government workers scramble to make ends meet, telling stories of financial desperation, selling their possessions, maxing out credit cards, and setting up GoFundMes, it’s hard to know if watching FYRE will feel like comedic relief at the over-the-top shenanigans of the rich or if these antics will spur us to build barricades in the street.

“If you have thousands of dollars to go on a trip to go see Blink-182, that’s on you. That’s Darwinism at its finest,” we hear towards the end of the trailer, over a series of clips that sees young people headed to Great Exuma toasting each other aboard private jets and doing shots and more shots and some further shots. This is a documentary for our time, and I believe it is going to show, in rowdy focus, the great and ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots.

Here’s something to consider: if Fyre had been delivered as promised, an event of unparalleled luxury and excess for the sort of wealthy people who take their purchasing cues from Kendall Jenner, it would likely have passed unnoticed and uncommented upon—save for some filtered Instagram photos of a fabulous weekend and its finely made meals.

To the barricades

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened jet skis onto Netflix January 18th, 2019.

(image: screengrab, Delacroix)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.