The FYRE Documentaries

Two Different Takes on the Tragic Festival

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The FYRE Documentaries

Two documentaries were released about the FYRE Festival in February.

Two documentaries were released about the FYRE Festival in February.

Lara Garay

Two documentaries were released about the FYRE Festival in February.

Lara Garay

Lara Garay

Two documentaries were released about the FYRE Festival in February.

Vera Targoff, Managing Editor

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By now, you’ve probably heard about the disaster that was FYRE Festival. It took place in the Bahamas in April of 2017, when thousands of rich millennials flew out to an unfinished festival site that had almost no food and water, nowhere for them to sleep, and no way to get back to the States.

When this happened, it was an online phenomenon. Twitter went crazy, making fun of those who dropped thousands of dollars to see Blink-182 finally getting screwed over. It was a joke, a class divide, and a hilarious failure.

The release of Netflix’s documentary, FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, shows another side of the story. It tells the stories of the Bahamian site builders that never got paid, the local restaurant owner who had to shell out $50,000 of her savings to pay her employees, and the countless incidents of festival director Billy McFarland lying to everyone he interacted with.

A few days before Netflix released FYRE, Hulu, without warning, put out their version of the story, FYRE Fraud. The two documentaries have different tones and focus on different aspects of the story. Overall, the Netflix version is a more entertaining and well-rounded depiction of the story, and FYRE Fraud falls a bit short.

It was a joke, a class divide, and a hilarious failure.”

The biggest difference between the two documentaries is the interviews. While FYRE has the charismatic Marc Weinstein and Andy King telling their narratives of being taken advantage of by McFarland, Hulu’s FYRE Fraud has McFarland himself, looking defeated and ashamed, talking to an offscreen interviewer about his mistakes. (According to FYRE director Chris Smith, this was a paid interview, and McFarland tried to manipulate the Netflix team to pay him more to get him in their documentary, which they did not do.)

The Hulu documentary was a bit more well-done, with the interview shots looking more professional, and lots of B-roll from famous TV shows and movies, but the Netflix documentary was just more interesting.

FYRE Fraud’s first half barely touches on the festival, looking more into McFarland’s history of scams. FYRE launches you right into it, and you follow the chronological order of events that happened leading up to the disaster of the festival itself. FYRE’s stories are more entertaining, including a NSFW anecdote from event producer Andy King about the lengths he (almost) had to go to get the event’s Evian water through customs. That story itself is almost reason enough to watch the Netflix documentary—trust me, it’s worth it.

The main issue I had with Hulu’s FYRE Fraud was the light Billy McFarland was put in. Objectively speaking, he is the bad guy in this whole debacle, yet the Hulu documentary almost creates sympathy for him. Almost. The Netflix documentary put him in the light he deserved to be in, and I think that’s what makes it the more valuable watch.

 

This piece also appears in our February 2019 print edition.