Are you trying to decide between the two documentaries streaming right now about Fyre Festival, the disastrous luxury music festival that collapsed spectacularly on social media? Here’s a breakdown to help you decide.
Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened both cover the same basic plot: how festival organizer Billy McFarland duped thousands into shelling out $3,200 each (or a lot more for extra amenities) for a fabulous tropical island vacation with models, celebrities, and big-name music acts in 2017. These unfortunate souls instead found themselves fighting over mattresses in a squalid tent city, and McFarland was recently sentenced to six years in federal prison.
Which is the superior documentary? To be totally scientific, we scored each film in different categories.
But first, the facts:
Now, onto the competition:
🔥 Fyre Fraud: Obviously, the MVP of this film is Billy McFarland, the nexus around which this entire storm swirls, Hulu got an interview with him, while Netflix didn’t. Best supporting roles go to the cheery whistleblower Calvin Well who, until recently, ran @FyreFraud on Twitter, and the model Anastasia Eremenko, who started dating Billy after the Fyre Fest fallout and intends on staying with him throughout his six-year stint in federal prison.
🎉 Fyre: Without McFarland, the standout interviewee is Andy King, the event producer who describes a moment where he found himself prepared to fellate a customs official to rescue several trucks of Evian water to save the festival. (Luckily, he didn’t have to go through with it, though he was later threatened with violence and escaped after the festival’s collapse crouching in the back of a car.) Best supporting role goes to festival consultant and yoga dude Marc Weinstein, whose sensible insider narrative anchored the film.
Winner: 🔥 Fyre Fraud. The Greatest Party had the most interesting one-offs (What about that pilot who learned to fly with Microsoft Flight Simulator?!), but Fyre Fraud had the strongest cast overall.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: It takes a voice of reason to shine a light on chaos. In Hulu’s documentary it was Jia Tolentino, staff writer for the New Yorker, who best illuminated the Fyre Festival phenomenon with her intelligent insight into human psychology and the #FOMO zeitgeist.
🎉 Fyre: Again, Marc Weinstein’s story was probably the most relatable. (Though, considering the rest of the characters involved in this mess, the odds were stacked in his favor.)
Winner: 🔥 Fyre Fraud. If I had to go to Fyre Festival, Weinstein is the guy I’d want on my side. But Tolentino’s insights went beyond the what and into the why.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: Coverage surrounding Fyre Fest tends to focus on what it lacked—infrastructure, appetizing sandwiches, water—but amid the wet mattresses and ominous geodesic domes was a legit luxury villa, occupied by Alyssa Lynch, a social media influencer. As the Cut said, “her lack of sympathy for people stranded on the beach was palpable.”
🎉 Fyre: Festival attendee Justin Liao, in the middle of describing the near-apocalyptic scene that befell the island at nightfall, told the camera that to avoid having neighbors in nearby tents, “our strategy was to sort of ransack all the tents around us.” He laughingly mimed stabbing, adding “I just started poking holes and flipping mattresses, and my buddy pissed on a few of the beds.” He later explained in an Instagram comment that these were only vacant tents, and that these actions were to protect their personal safety after the theft of some expensive camera equipment. Still, no.
Winner: 🎉 Fyre. Only one film made me truly fear the dark night of the soul on a gravel beach, fighting off Instagram influencers amassing wet pillows and mattresses.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: That toast: “Here’s to living like movie stars. Partying like rock stars. And fucking like porn stars.”
🎉 Fyre: That conference call: “We didn’t kill anybody! Nobody got hurt!”
Winner: Definitely not Ja Rule.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: Hulu’s interview with Billy McFarland came at a cost to the production, both in dollars and to its credibility, when it emerged that McFarland was paid for his eight-hour interview and access to behind-the-scenes footage. Chris Smith, the rival documentary’s director, told the Ringer that McFarland demanded $125,000 for an interview, saying Hulu was paying him $250,000 (Netflix declined). Fyre Fraud director Jenner Furst acknowledged that a payment was made to McFarland, but said that number was inflated. Still, the interviewer did press McFarland on some tough questions, and the final film directly called out some false claims he made.
🎉 Fyre: Hulu dropped its documentary just days before the heavily-hyped Netflix documentary was scheduled for release, and the epilogue of Fyre Fraud cast some A+ shade on The Greatest Party, pointing out that it would be co-produced by Jerry Media, the same social media company that promoted Fyre Fest. Fyre did not acknowledge in the film that some of the major players involved in this fiasco were co-producers.
Winner: None. These were both really bad choices.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: The Hulu documentary is less a blow-by-blow account of the logistics of the festival falling apart, and it therefore spends less time with the Bahamian laborers, fixers, and business owners who were left unpaid or underpaid after months of work and expenditures.
🎉 Fyre: One of the most memorable stories in this film was that of Maryann Rolle, owner of Exuma Point Bar and Grille, who said she paid $50,000 to cover her employees’ salaries, draining her savings. Rolle set up a GoFundMe, and within two weeks of the release of the documentary, it had received almost $200,000.
Winner: 🎉 Fyre. It’s easy to forget that rich kids and investors weren’t the only ones defrauded by Billy McFarland. Netflix’s film drives that ugly reality home.
🔥 Fyre Fraud: I watched this film first, and I did not fall asleep.
🎉 Fyre: I watched this film second, and I did fall asleep.
Winner: 🔥 Fyre Fraud and 🎉 Fyre. Fyre Fraud receives a point for being the film I happened to watch first, and therefore was my baseline for comparison. Fyre receives a point for giving me time to nap.
Fyre Fraud: 🔥🔥🔥
The Greatest Party: 🎉🎉🎉
Winner: Goodness, it’s a tie!
Ultimately, pitting the two Fyre Fest films against each other leads to the unavoidable conclusion: You should watch them both. They’re complementary. After all, how often do unmitigated disasters on this scale have a 0% mortality rate? For lovers of schadenfreude, these moments are rare gems, and they should be savored as such.
Fyre is an intimate look at how delusion fueled Fyre Festival. Even if Billy McFarland was ultimately a fraud, yes-men enabled him until the very end. Fyre Fraud, conversely, connects the dots between Billy McFarland, Jerry Media, and the absurd power of social media influencers.
And if you end up skipping them both, don’t worry. McFarland’s scam is just the latest—and most publicized—in a growing list of internet-fueled scams, hoodwinks, and bamboozles. It certainly won’t be the last.