Netflix’s ‘FYRE’ Documentary Trailer Presents Us With a True American Nightmare

The best laid plans of mice and men become fodder for Netflix.
Fyre The Greatest Party That Never Happened
By  · Published on January 11th, 2019

What fresh hell is this? At the end of April of 2017, thousands of Americans sped to the Bahamas to partake in the Fyre Music Festival. When their planes touched down, they popped their acid and unleashed their party personas. What they found waiting for them was not a concert or a celebration, but a Kafkan nightmare that only the U.S. of A. could unleash upon another country’s soil.

Spearheaded by founder Billy McFarland and Ja Rule, the Fyre music festival was designed to be this generation’s Woodstock with the event being advertised across dozens of social media platforms controlled by celebrities like Kendal Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski. By and by, each and every one of them were paid to get the word out. This was going to be the party to end all parties. Don’t be a square and miss out. Instagram told us so.

However, instead of landing into a party zone catered with gourmet meals upon a push palatial estate, the attendees discovered a slop of tents and rapidly dwindling saran wrapped sandwiches. Performers arrived, and there was no stage for them to stand upon. The organizers fled, and everyone else was left stranded.

These folks gave thousands of dollars to the organization and McFarland simply couldn’t put it to good use. Or was it more nefarious than that? People panicked, they raged, and the Bahamas became a battleground of anger. Wealth runs amuck.

Now, documentarian Chris Smith digs into the facts and lies that surround the festival with his new movie FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. The filmmaker who often finds himself circling the madness and motivation that fuels creators (American Movie, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond) investigate those that exploit the passion of their audience. Who is to blame? Who is greedier, the organizer or the lemmings that come calling?

Ok, yeah. After that, I want to get to the bottom of this nonsense. Where does a character like Billy McFarland come from? Money. He is the son of real estate developers who at the age of 13 founded his first company. An evil Richie Rich. He’s more than just a bright smile and a twinkle in the eye. He was bred to manipulate money, and his charisma did the rest for him.

In 2013, McFarland founded Magnises which offered an exclusive “black card” that granted owners entrance to hoity-toity socialite clubs. Money for nothing. The cash he collected there morphed into the capital that launched Fyre Media, Inc. and the festival that never was. He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a guy wearing white gloves. He was slick and quick, and he probably believed he could deliver on his promises. Then the desperation sunk in and he went into go-go-go mode until the Federal government stepped in front of him.

I am curious to see what kind of portrait Smith will paint for McFarland in FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. His previous works have a warm aura around them even when they hide a sharp edge. Of course, Jim Carry and Mark Borchardt didn’t actively steal from thousands or decimate a small island nation.

The documentary is set to release on Netflix on January 18th.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)