In Depth

Fyre festival: new documentary goes behind the scenes of ill-fated event

Netflix show interrogates those behind music festival that saw organiser jailed for fraud

The Fyre music festival is back in the spotlight after the release of a new documentary on the ill-fated 2017 event.

The festival which was promoted by a slew of models and social media personalities and promised Blink-182, yachts and catering by celebrity chefs hit the headlines after complaints were made by attendees about the conditions they found once they arrived.

Ticketholders claimed the gourmet meals were actually just pieces of bread and cheese, while the “luxury” accommodation was nothing more than flimsy tents. They also added there was no lighting and that water was scarce.

The new Netflix documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, focuses on the disastrous build-up to the event - which was organised by businessman Billy McFarland.

What’s the documentary about?

“The organisers had six to eight weeks to pull off something that should have taken close to a year,” Chris Smith, who directed the documentary told the BBC.

“But what was most surprising to me was going to the Bahamas and seeing the aftermath of what was left behind and the effect on the people there.”

Smith said that in terms of marketing, Fyre succeeded in “selling the dream” of a beach vacation combined with a music festival. But delivering on the fantasy was another story.

“I don't think they set out to try and scam people and just have them fly out and it be a disaster. I think the idea was to deliver something that lived up to the marketing. It was just the reality of that just proved to be incredibly impossible,” Smith said.

“It's a reflection of this idea of perception and reality,” Smith told NPR when explaining the themes of the film. “Here you had something that was presented as sort of the ultimate festival experience and the reality of it was so different. It feels very much like a reflection of the times that we're in right now.”

“Fyre had such a high profile that I don't think anyone could have assumed that it wouldn't work out.”

What’s happened to the organisers?

Billy McFarland, who declined to appear in the documentary without payment, was the organiser of the ill-fated music festival and was sentenced to six years in prison late last year, after pleading guilty to fraud.

McFarland was also ordered by the court to hand over almost £20 million, after patrons attending the Fyre Festival arrived on the island to find that the promised “luxury accommodation” was actually disaster-relief tents, many of which had not been set up.

In November 2018, one month into his sentence, McFarland released a post-Fyre festival statement from jail, vowing to make things right by becoming a better person while serving his time.

“I am incredibly sorry for my collective actions and will right the wrongs I have delivered to my family, friends, partners, associates and, you, the general public,” he said in the statement released to People magazine.

“I’ve always sought - and dreamed to accomplish incredible things by pushing the envelope to deliver for a common good, but I made many wrong and immature decisions along the way and I caused agony. As a result, I’ve lived every day in prison with pain, and I will continue to do so until I am able to make up for some of this harm through work and actions that society finds respectable.”

“Six years doesn't seem to fit with what he did and the impact he had on everyone else,” Seth Crossno, a blogger and podcaster who attended the festival told the BBC.

He added to The Guardian that he is still searching for answers: “Even now, with all this hot water, all these fraud charges, it’s like: what did Billy know? What did the investors know? Did he dupe everybody? Why show up? To make it look like he wasn’t taking the money and running? Because you think you can pull it off? Are you that delusional?”

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