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  • Chandra Ingram

"The Greatest Party That Never Was": Exposing the dangers lingering in dark corners of social media

“If there’s anything he’s good at it is separating consumers from their cash. And if there’s anything this country celebrates more than that I don’t know.” – FYRE Festival Contributor

The Greatest Party That Never Was does more than document the failure and fraud behind 2017’s Fyre Festival. It goes further than creating and confronting a villain. Take a step back, and the documentary suddenly loses its frame. Rather than a story about one guy who screwed thousands of people over, the documentary develops a commentary on how we—as social media users and consumers— are choosing to live and perceive our world. Through an external lens, the producers warn us as viewers that there are consequences to our rash, unchecked decisions.

The Greatest Party That Never Was sheds light on our society and the dangers lingering in dark corners of social media. As we drown ourselves in our own consumerism, we hope to reach these false fantasies, even just to touch the extravagance of a media-painted lifestyle. Fyre made everyone look inside themselves and wonder what it would be like to be them. One might say, they put the super back in supermodel.

The documentary begins as a development of a dream. The filmmakers let you know something will go wrong. Flashes of images show destruction, disaster, and looming danger. We just aren’t shown what it is yet. It’s a haunting foreshadow, and when these same images reappear toward the end you remember your first thoughts. If you had never heard of Fyre Festival or this scandal, you couldn’t possibly piece together what these images meant. The producers do a great job stringing you along. They give you just enough information, but never enough to pause the documentary or exit out of the screen. You never quite have the full story. Even in the very end, they wait until the investigations to uncover how the mastermind behind the entire event pulled it off.

The producers frame a series of interviews with Fyre employees helping bring this dream come to life. At the same time, we get insight into the man behind the dream. An “Operational sociopath”, “a hustler”, “a magician fundraiser”—Billy is called many things throughout the film. Candid video shots of Billy construct him as an innocent, entrepreneurial genius, but through interviews with his employees, the producers piece together an entirely different narrative. Billy’s image wavers back and forth between an innocent, overly optimistic dreamer to a deceptive, manipulative conman. Which of the following is true is up to your interpretation.

The film dives into the façade invented by two young entrepreneurs —an outlandish, extravagant party on Pablo Escobar’s former private island, dazzled by celebrities like Kylie Jenner. We feel how far-fetched it is. This isn’t a party you or me would be invited to. It’s outside any average person’s reach. So it draws you in. And you stay because you can hear the eerie music and the soft chiming bells in the background. It’s that part of a horror film—the woman is in the shower or looking at her reflection in the mirror. You’re waiting for it to happen—but you don’t know what it is yet.

The producers do a good job building distrust, showing the festival’s disorganization through interviews and through candid film shots taken in real time. We see the “chief marketing chair” mocking his own title with physical air quotes. We the private jet pilot boast about being self-taught. We see Billy passed out on the beachin broad daylight.

“Big giant bluff overlooking the ocean.” We’re given some insight into the epic failure that was Fyre Festival, and then we’re taken on a journey of how happened, or rather how it never did.

The real-life shots add authenticity to the film. Some of them were even symbolic of the disaster that was about to unfold. Billy knocks over a beer onto the map of the island, sunken planes rot in immaculate blue water, deserted cement-like land awaits the transformation of an exotic and luxurious promise.

The film also incorporates great “techy” transitions, with subtle sound effects of keyboards typing and email notifications binging. The Fyre Festival is captured from beginning to end with candid iPhone videos, professionally captured commercials, and centered interviews. Images of the orange tile Instagram post are used to explain how the event was first promoted. Toward the end of the documentary, the film editors created a landscape shot of hundreds of these orange Instagram tiles— a reminder of what instigated the Fyre.

The Greatest Party That Never Was is an important documentary that reflects on the dangers of media today and the consequences of unbridled power. It displays an overall lack of human compassion that festers from greed and false hope. They could’ve stopped this from happening, but the need for fame and fortune turned people rotten.

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