There are two Fyre Festival documentaries — and you should probably watch them both | TV+Streaming | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

There are two Fyre Festival documentaries — and you should probably watch them both

The most enthralling part of Fyre Festival has always been the documentation of Fyre Festival.

There seems to be no end to how much content people want on the topic of Fyre Festival, the greatest music festival disaster of a generation. On Jan. 14, four days before the Jan. 18 release of the Netflix documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, Hulu made a surprise drop of Fyre Fraud, its own original documentary on the same subject. (It was also released the day Netflix lifted its review embargo, if you wanna get into petty specifics.)

These documentaries — or any documentary that provided a deeper dive on the subject — were long-awaited. As soon as the specifics of the Fyre Festival disaster spread across social media in real time, the masses were hungry for more.

Netflix's Fyre has exclusive interviews with dozens of the employees, organizers, laborers, and marketers involved with the festival. It is quick-cut, glossy, and as engrossing as the festival itself.

Fyre Fraud, directed by Jennifer Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, is less comprehensive than Fyre. It doesn't have as many interviews with insiders and makes up for that with people who know a lot about the festival or about millennials or about money. Journalists who have their pulse on the culture offer commentary about how and why Fyre Festival succeeded and failed so quickly. Influencers who attended the festival offer glib/grim details about the event. There are a handful of ex-employees, giving insight into the company. A few locals from Great Exuma, the Bahamian Island where the festival was set to take place, explain it from their side.

While Netflix's Fyre focuses on the day-by-day planning/chaos leading up to the festival, Hulu's Fyre Fraud focuses more on analyzing Billy McFarland, the rich goober in charge of it all. It covers his origin as an entrepreneur in elementary school where he charged kids a dollar to fix their crayons. And unlike Netflix's documentary, Hulu's features an interview with McFarland himself, slimmed down and dressed like the manager of an EDM DJ.
In trying to explain the machine that created McFarland and his scamming tendencies, Fyre Fraud makes sweeping statements about millennials, social medial, and power. A lot of sentences begin with "in this era …" One montage features clips of refugees on a raft, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Mark Zuckerberg's hearing as the backdrop for defining millennials. Someone says "there is essentially a Fyre Festival going on everyday in the West Wing."

Fyre Fraud does do a good job of mocking nearly everyone involved. In Netflix's Fyre, there's a sense that even though all these people participated in planning a festival they knew would put people in danger, they come out clean because they feel very bad about it, unlike the unfeeling McFarland.

But Netflix's Fyre was also produced by Jerry Media (the production company of the Instagram meme account FuckJerry, which once got in trouble for joke theft), who was also in charge of the marketing for Fyre Festival. Naturally, they come off looking alright in the Netflix documentary, despite playing a big part in creating this monster. The documentary is inherently skewed knowing this about it. At the end of Fyre Fraud, a former Jerry Media employee points out how laughable it is that there's two documentaries, and that one is produced by his former employer.

But Fyre Fraud is not completely clean either. For their interview with McFarland, the filmmakers paid him an undisclosed, but presumably large, sum of money. It's unethical to pay a subject for an interview, especially when the interview is about how the subject is unethical (and criminal—McFarland is currently serving a six-year sentence).

The Fyre Festival was an exorbitant scam built off the luxurious millennial dreams. It's fitting, then, that both documentaries about the subject are a bit corrupt. The two productions technically exist on their own, but together they are part of a larger project neither was aware of. The most enthralling part of Fyre Festival has always been the documentation of Fyre Festival.

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