Fyre  (2019)

The Fyre Festival was unique because we saw it fail in real-time. We saw the articles leading up to it that doubted it, we saw the people Instagramming their trip as it happened, we saw the immediate tsunami of memes mocking it, and we followed along for the aftermath. There are two documentaries out right now that look into exactly how it failed so spectacularly - I don't have Hulu, so here's Netflix's version.

The term "tech bro" makes me shudder. Billy McFarland was a mega tech-bro, focused on branding over the actual tech, form over function, style over substance. He wanted to portray the image of success (Maseratis, private jets, etc) without actually working to achieve the success. He made a splash with an app that catered to the millennial with disposable income, found himself in the inner circle of young NYC nightlife, met the right people with money to invest, and just kept money coming in and going out.

The FYRE app actually made a lot of sense to me, and if done by legit business people, I think could actually work. The idea was to allow musicians to be booked directly. Rather than a local concert promoter having to jump through dozens of hoops to contact agents and record labels and managers, they could just click an artist with a pre-approved fee, and boom, they're playing at your event. The issues arose when McFarland wanted to put on a music festival to promote the app. While the promotional video shoot promised a luxurious weekend full of supermodels and champagne on a private island, attendees ended up in hurricane disaster tents eating cheese sandwiches.

It's been a while since I have seen a collection of so many punchable faces. While there were definitely a bunch of people who I felt sorry for (the people who we were working without pay, those who tried to salvage things only to be ignored, the ones who got screwed by a person they trusted), but the core of bros were just loathsome from top to bottom. I think what strikes me the most when it comes to scams like this is how people fall for any of it in the first place. McFarland's employees and coworkers talk about his charm, and how he could sell anything, but I still like to think that I'm not dumb enough to fall for stuff like that. I'm not saying I'm the smartest guy in the room, but I just don't get how people said "Ja Rule is part of this? Take all my money, cuz that guy is legit!"

The doc sets a nice balance of pure uncut schadenfreude with actual empathy. I loved watching the promoters fail, and actually wished there was more private footage of them crying and freaking out. I admit I enjoyed watching the crowds of social media "influencers" whine about not getting their private jet or deluxe villa cabanas. Conversely, it was rough to see some of the people who were only connected to the festival tangentially end up losing their jobs; seeing day-laborers in the Bahamas work day and night for a month only to get stiffed on their pay; hearing a restaurant owner break down when she talks about having to pay her employees out of her savings actually cut through me.

I strive to avoid posting political stuff online. My opinions are mine, yours are yours, I'm not going to change your mind and you won't change mine. Against my better judgement, I have to say that the entire Fyre Festival felt scarily like an allegory for what's going on with the United States right now. Someone had a bit of success, it turned out to be a scam, but they were able to skate by on "charm" and devoted hangers-on. Every time a problem arose, they either threw money at it or simply said "we'll take care of it", but in the meantime another problem popped up and everyone just forgot to fix the previous one.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Fyre" a 6 out of 10.

Celluloid Hero Varacchi 2



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