Red Vine’s Take
It’s crazy that we live in a time where there could be two documentaries released about the exact same obscure subject, Netflix’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, and Hulu’s Fyre Fraud. The war for best documentary streaming service is far from over, but as far as this particular battle, Netflix was undoubtedly the winner. Both documentaries have pros and cons, but Netflix’s FYRE feels like the more finished product. The amount of access to the festival and its creators is really what sets the documentary apart. FYRE had exclusive video (albeit from a pretty suspect source) and a better and more relevant cast of talking heads.
For its part, Hulu’s Fyre Fraud does pretty good with having very little access to the festival, but at certain points, that lack of access becomes painfully obvious. Fyre Fraud has to rely mostly on already available instagram posts for its video of the event, and its cast of talking heads is comprised mostly of disgruntled employees and random professors. It also suffers from some horrible production choices like their decision to use a computer voice to narrate legal documents. For their credit, they do have an actual interview with the festival’s creator, but he was probably paid to appear (not cool from an ethical standpoint) and adds very little information.
Netflix’s FYRE isn’t perfect either. Their source of exclusive videos comes from the media company that is probably culpable in the whole festival fiasco. That point is played up in the Hulu documentary by a disgruntled employee, but then is conveniently downplayed in the Netflix documentary by the current company employees. Aside from that large black mark, the Netflix documentary is a very fun watch. It takes an issue that seems like just a minor case of millennials getting scammed by Instagram, and then turns that into a compelling story that successfully mixes elements of true crime and social advocacy.
Unless you were formerly familiar of Billy McFarland or weirdly obsessed with Kylie Jenner or utterly dedicated to your Instagram status, more than likely the FYRE festival was not on your radar before April 2017. With that said, this dumpster fire (pun intended) of a festival has forever become ubiquitous with dumb millennials and Ponzi-schemes.
It is only fitting, then, we now have not one but TWO documentaries and countless articles and discussion boards on this topic. With that said, in comparing what appears almost literally apples to apples, the Netflix documentary does reign supreme. As Red Vines mentioned above, there are ethical quandaries for both the Netflix and Hulu documentaries. While one (Netflix’s FYRE) seems to understate the culpability of the producers of the festival (which, coincidentally, also co-produced the documentary itself); the other (Hulu’s FYRE FRAUD) features Billy McFarland himself – though offering very little substance – questioning the integrity of that decision or the filmmakers themselves.
The Netflix documentary, especially, takes you on the wild, ridiculous, and down-right stupid ride that was Billy McFarland’s FYRE festival. At times, you will literally be laughing out loud – though, perhaps, not for the obvious reasons. At times, you will be screaming at your television (seriously, Billy is so annoying and gross and obscene). At times, you will be cringing and shaking your head at disgust (Andy King’s story is a notable mention). And, sadly, at times, you’ll be weeping – specifically for the Bahamian people to whom Billy most exploited and abused (I’m especially thinking of you Maryanne Rolle).
And, while it is true Jerry Media who both co-produced the Netflix documentary and the FYRE festival itself, has questionable bias in the making of this film, you still, at times, feel bad for them. Perhaps maybe I shouldn’t, but it’s hard not to feel their sense of betrayal from Billy, to whom they considered their fearless and charismatic leader and later, literally, sold them out.
And, though, this documentary proves a valuable insight into a national growing problem, it’s also just a fun watch. A documentary that heightens our social consciousness to consider the ways we can be so easily duped, especially by who was, essentially, just another rich white frat douche riding around on a 4-wheeler. Perhaps, it is because of our every present sense of romantic hopefulness (or maybe its just because of the false but pretty representation of all those Instagram filters ) that we are were able to buy into what accounted nothing more than a gorgeous promotional video. And, with that in mind, this film proves to be for everyone, in that, it is a haunting story of now if not a lesson for tomorrow.