Photo: Netflix and Hulu
If you were in the vicinity of a television, newspaper, or the internet in 2017, you’ve heard of the monumental train wreck that was the Fyre Festival. Little over a year later, a pair of documentaries have dropped, Fyre Fraud on Hulu and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened on Netflix, about the founder Billy McFarland, his history of shady businesses, and the horror show of the festival.
Fyre Fraud went into production first and primarily looks at Fyre Festival almost as the apotheosis of the social media obsessed, millennial culture. Our need to follow influencers to figure out our own identities, entwined with our FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), made the victims of these perfect marks for McFarland’s predation. Fraud was also the only of the two to get McFarland himself, though I hesitate to call his part of the movie an interview, as the film starts praising him but quickly turns against him in a way that causes him to just shut down.
Produced by Vice and the social media marketing that worked for the festival, Jerry Media, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened was a lot smoother in production and focus. It didn’t have any messages outside of the events of the festival itself, positing that it was not only the attendees of the festival itself but the employees and contractors of the company as well. Not odd at all, as some of the people that the film wants to absolve were behind it.
Hulu’s film dropped four days before Netflix’s, and while Greatest Party is the better movie, Fyre Fraud is the better documentary. It focuses on the facts in the case against Billy McFarland, his history as a con man, and how he grifted his way to keep the lie afloat, though is bogged down by it’s ruminations of millennial culture and how, to various degrees, the people who went were at fault for what happened to them – a strange twist of victim blaming that somewhat soured the film for me.
The spin of Netflix’s take on the events were well hidden if viewers never went to Hulu to see their film. The facts are nearly the same in each, and a lot of the same footage from influencers and festival goers, and even some of the people around the edges of the story, but Greatest Party has more access to the people, other than Billy himself, behind the festival. Apart of the Netflix’s film’s conclusion is that all of these people telling the story were so critical and competent that, if not for them, Billy would have failed in the early planning days of the event and it would have not happened at all. Again, a strange twist for a film that spends most of its time trying to say that it wasn’t their fault.
All in all, both movies are interesting and a worthwhile viewing. However, Netflix’s is the one that will be remembered for time to come, both as a source of many memes that pushed the awareness of the festival to more than anyone would otherwise and because of the focus it paid to the only people no comedy can be made from – the people of the Bahamas that were left in the lurch that never got paid for what work for the company they did.
If you are at all interested in one of the biggest pop culture failures of the decade, either or both of these films are each a worthy ninety minutes of viewing. If you can only watch one and care more about the facts in the case, I would recommend Fyre Fraud on Hulu. However, if you want more of a behind the scenes look at the festival, Frye: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is the one for you.
David Castro is a Puerto Rican writer from New York City. He has worked on the upcoming Undead supplement for Chill Third Edition and is working on launching a Patreon. You can find him on Twitter (@theinkedknight), on Tumblr (thedevilsyouknew), on Facebook (facebook.com/inkstainedstudios), and at davidrcastro.com.