Netflix's "Fyre" Is a High Class Documentary

5 ways Fyre is higher quality than Hulu's Fyre Festival documentary.

Film Reviews

Hulu may have released its Fyre Festival documentary first, but Netflix's Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is of a higher class.

Despite the questionable ethics of both production teams, director Chris Smith does justice to the Netflix legacy of well-structured documentaries with a human interest payoff. In contrast, Hulu's co-directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason aim to make lofty connections between Fyre Festival and millennial ethos that are sound on paper but a messy visual argument.

Both documentaries acknowledge the media storm of schadenfreude that resulted from one attendee's now-iconic Twitter post of the festival's "gourmet" dinner: "Literally slices of bread, cheese, and salad with no dressing." Of course, on the surface, the spectacle of rich, entitled millennials paying exorbitant ticket prices for a luxury music festival in the Bahamas and ending up sleeping in FEMA tents amused the public. However, both Hulu and Netflix examine the serious repercussions of the scandal and what it signified about our culture.

Here are the five key points that Fyre hits home better than Hulu's documentary.

1. Netflix Shows What Hulu Only Tells

At first, Hulu scoring an exclusive interview with Billy McFarland (conducted before he was sentenced to six years in jail for fraud) seemed to give it an advantage. However, Fyre Fraud's cobbled together footage from over eight hours interviewing a "compulsive liar" gives the narcissistic conman exactly what he seeks: attention with no substance. On the other hand, the clear upside of co-producing Fyre with Jerry Media is Netflix's extensive behind-the-scenes footage, which spans from the festival's early planning stages to McFarland's release on bail in a fraudulently acquired penthouse.

2. Ja Rule Knew

Among both documentaries' many scenes of McFarland and Ja Rule partying on the beach, Ja Rule's oft-repeated toast captures the naivety and blind-sightedness of the inexperienced festival planners: "Here's to living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and fucking like porn stars!" However, while Fyre Fraud leaves a little room to speculate whether or not Ja Rule was kept in the dark about the disastrous planning, the interviews and recorded phone calls featured in Fyre show his frank denial of the facts he was exposed to.

In fact, the release of Netflix's documentary drove Ja Rule to post a slew of tweets that claimed he "had an amazing vision to create a festival like no other" but he was a victim, too. He posted, "I too was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, lead astray!!!"

3. Everyone Denies Who Really Planned the Festival

Aside from Ja Rule's back and forth about his level of involvement, the festival's marketing company, Jerry Media (a.k.a FuckJerry on Instagram), has been accused of co-conspiring in the fraud. This is the first point of direct contention between the Hulu and Netflix productions, as Furst and Nason feature a former employee of Jerry Media who recounts how the company propagated a known lie–including deleting all Instagram comments that alluded to the truth.

In stark contrast, Netflix co-produced Fyre with the remaining members of Jerry Media. They claim they were also victimized and misled by Billy McFarland, with their interviews dotted with passive language like, "It was decided by someone...I don't know who."


4. The Disaster Up Close

For a real dose of schadenfreude, Netflix is the way to go. The combination of behind-the-scenes interviews and attendees' first-person footage paints the full, collapsing picture of the luxury villas and personal yachts the guests expected. However, Fyre's extended coverage of the fallout also highlights the more serious reality that hundreds of young adults were stranded on an island with no food, water, or transportation home. Footage of the campsite after nightfall with no light sources shows how rightfully the event was later described as "post-apocalyptic."

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5. Bahamians Were the Real Victims

To give Fyre Fraud its due, Hulu's documentarians use Fyre Festival as a dowsing rod to uncover the source of status and social media obsessions. In Furst and Nason's words, "McFarland's staggering ambition metastasized in a petri dish of late-stage capitalism, corporate greed, and predatory branding, all weaponized by our fear of missing out." One interviewee makes a pointed comment aligning Trumpian politics with the festival's deception: "It's a good time to be a conman in America."

However, Chris Smith's team tackles the human interest angle of how much the Bahamian economy and local workforce were damaged and exploited. Fyre underlines the dozens of laborers who worked nearly day and night for empty promises of pay. Interviews even detail how some of the festival planners felt the need to disguise themselves in order to escape the area, because in the immediate fallout, "mobs" of workers were demanding overdue pay (they never received any).

RolleThe Tribtune

One of the most memorable interviewees is Maryann Rolle, the owner of Exuma Point restaurant who unexpectedly received Fyre Festival's first wave of guests with less than half an hour's notice. This was due to the fact that the intended campsite was drenched, unprepared, and inhospitable on the first morning that guests arrived. Rolle seems genuinely pained during her interview, saying, "I had ten people working with me directly. They were just preparing food all day and all night, 24 hours. I had to pay all those people. I went through about $50,000 of my savings that I could have had. They just wiped it out, and never looked back."

In fact, Gabrielle Bluestone, one of the producers of Fyre, took to Twitter the day after the documentary was released to share Rolle's (legitimate) Go Fund Me page to pay back the expenses incurred by Fyre Festival. As of Monday, donations totaled at over $137,000.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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