New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Culture
  2. TV
16 January 2019

Fyre: a dread-inducing documentary of a festival gone wrong

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.  

By Anna Leszkiewicz

In April 2017, the world watched with righteous glee as a music festival for the super-rich in the Bahamas collapsed into chaos. Thousands bought tickets to Fyre Festival expecting a glamorous, weekend-long party with supermodels; instead, they faced something closer to 24 hours in a disaster zone. The internet delighted in footage of wealthy young Americans trapped on site, fighting over soggy mattresses and sad cheese sandwiches.

But Netflix’s new documentary about this catastrophic screw-up derives its pleasure from elsewhere. Instead of mocking the footage of stranded attention-seekers that you got a good glimpse of nearly two years ago, it scrupulously examines how a mess of this magnitude came to be through candid interviews with its organisers. The first hour of the 90-minute film chronicles the delusional, reckless and fradulent behaviour of organiser Billy McFarland and the growing panic of his seemingly mostly competent staff, as the days left before the big event persistently tick away. More thriller than schadenfreude-laced comedy, I watched Fyre with squirming dread. Knowing what’s coming only raises the suspense.

Fyre doesn’t blame overprivileged guests for wasting their money in the hunt for glossy Instagrams, but doesn’t reserve sympathy for them either. Instead, it identifies the real victims as the Bahamians whose lives were upended by the arrogance of the project, spending long days labouring on the festival site, only to never get paid. Though McFarland has been sentenced to six years in prison, footage of him enjoying a luxury penthouse lifestyle while on bail, and his acquaintances’ insistence of his ability to bounce back, leaves you with a grim sense that rich criminals will always thrive, while their disadvantaged victims struggle. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust

This article appears in the 16 Jan 2019 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit trapped Britain