Fyre Festival Flicks


#1

With all the talk over the last week or so about Hulu and Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentaries dropping, I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m all for the occasional schadenfruede of watching rich assholes getting some well-deserved comeuppance. (For those that need a refresher, this is the disastrous music festival in the Bahamas that landed its founder, Billy McFarland, in jail for fraud.)

The gist I got from my social media feed is that the Netflix one is the better documentary, but the Hulu one more entertaining, so I thought I’d go with the Hulu one first (ok, that wasn’t an actual decision, it just popped up after I got done watching Drunk History). I’m halfway through and not sure I want to bother with the rest. So far, it seems to have two theses:

  1. Millenials are a bunch of vapid dopes.
  2. Having Ja Rule as a business partner is inherently hilarious.

I’m about halfway through and so far, it’s pretty majorly disappointing. If you’ve seen a documentary post- The Smartest Guys in the Room, you know exactly what to expect: a bunch of people playing Captain Hindsight over fast cuts of tangentially-related archival footage and b-roll, with no indication of who’s talking or why we should care what they have to say (except Jia Tolentino, who fucking rules and I would listen to her commentary on literally anything).

The talking heads are filmed in nice, well-lit rooms. McFarland is filmed in a dark brick room with dim underlighting. It also does the thing where every time he stops talking, they keep the camera on his face for a few seconds until he starts fidgeting. From all accounts, this guy is at best a naive con artist, but I see such blatantly manipulative film-making and can’t help but think the creators don’t think the content can stand on its own.

So, has anybody else watched these? Does the Hulu one come alive in the second half? Is the Netflix one better? Any recs for good docs about rich assholes getting their comeuppance?


#2

I haven’t seen either documentary, but I found this review of both them interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4yOELNjKk


#3

The Hulu one sure sounds like an entertaining mess. Haven’t watched it but watched the Netflix one and I would recommend. It’s structured pretty traditionally. Starts with McFarland post-event in the street with civie clothes getting harassed by lone paparazzi… the doc team interviewing the crew that joined him things like “did he seem trustworthy to you?” so it’s a bit of a tonal build-up sets up the context, diving in to all the mistakes, etc. The tone is pretty much “what the hell happened to this guy? How did he fall so far so badly?” with a bit more of an exposé angle. They don’t actually interview McFarland in that one. But still plenty of behind the scene/on the scene footage of him, Ja-Rule, and the others. This one also interviews the influencers (yuck) and others than went as well.


#4

Having watched them both, I think the Netflix one is definitely the typical documentary of the two—it is about as traditional a major event documentary can be, with grainy social media footage, interspersed with third-person narration about what exactly happened in said footage, mixed with connecting footage and clips from several interviewees with various relationships to the festival that recur throughout. It’s very focused on giving a straightforward account of “what exactly happened at this here fyre festival thing,” and is generally a pretty competent piece of filmmaking. If you’re mainly curious about what happened at the event, that’s the one you should watch.

The Hulu one, on the other hand, is entirely built around their interview (and attempted dunking on) of McFarland, and I think your reaction to it will ultimately be predicated on how you feel about said interview. I think it does grow more incisive as time goes on, and towards the end I think some of those uncomfortable pauses mentioned do actually pay off (in one instance, they more or less accuse him of being a pathological liar, wait for him to ask when he’s lied, and then they play back several clips of him blatantly lying). It reminded me a lot of the old Jon Stewart/Daily Show trick of “play clip of politician saying one thing,” -pause-, “play older clip of politican contradicting said thing.” Which definitely betrays that the Hulu doc’s purpose is to ultimately dunk as much as possible on McFarland rather than talk about anyone else involved in Fyre (something the Netflix doc more heavily portrays). Really it’s more of a McFarland doc than a Fyre Festival doc anyway—they spend a pretty sizable portion focusing on his other projects, “Magnises,” etc. before getting to Fyre.

Notable things the Netflix one contains that the Hulu one skips: the actual Fyre app, which is… pretty huge to understanding why any of this happened. Has some additional focus on the Bahamians who were screwed by all of this (they felt more or less shoehorned in in the Hulu doc to me). Also a couple of interviews with people who are never mentioned in the Hulu doc—including a “festival consultant” and McFarland’s longtime business partner/mentor/etc. Generally, more focus on people not named Billy McFarland.

Notable things the Hulu one contains that the Netflix one skips: more about Magnises, so more context around McFarland as a character. Discussion of how culpable the marketing agency, Jerry Media (who were partnered with the Netflix documentary) was in all of this. And most importantly, the actual interview of McFarland, which is the centerpiece.

(All that said, I’m not sure how worth watching either of them really are… I just wanted something on in the background while I played Dark Souls on my Switch.)


#5

I saw the Netflix one this weekend. That Billy McFarland is a real piece of shit but what a glorious stitchup of influencer/instagram culture. Makes me want to throw my phone into the ocean, but all my podcasts are there.


#6

Halfway through the Netflix one, and whether its rich organisers or rich customers, there’s a real satisfaction in them both realising just how shit this thing turned out to be


#7

I’ll vote for watching the Netflix doc for the fact that it spends screen time walking through the ways the Bahamians involved were hurt by this fiasco.


#8

I haven’t seen the Netflix one (I feel similarly to other folks about the Hulu one), but is anyone else kinda immediately averse to the Netflix one because of the simple fact that Jerry Media was actually involved in making it?


#9

There’s definitely ethical murkiness with both docs. I think Polygon actually did a good job describing the differences in the two and discussing the biases both contain. https://www.polygon.com/2019/1/18/18187159/fyre-festival-netflix-vs-hulu-doc-review-fraud


#10

Haven’t watched either doc yet, but this is a very good headline:

WHERE’S JA?!


#11

I still cannot get over the “stop doing crimes billy” segment of the story. Billy why are you still doing crimes


#12

I watched Fyre Fraud last night. It was interesting to get the buildup and background of McFarland’s other ahem business misadventures.

I really don’t think the “narcissistic millennial” angle worked well, BUT the social media influencer stuff was quite interesting. I understand what they were trying to set up, but it seemed to lean on old tropes.

The on-camera reactions were…interesting. I don’t know how I feel about McFarland’s girlfriend being on it. There was a moment near the end where she’s obviously laughing out of discomfort and it’s weird. Some of the other influencers were good, especially the “fake” influencer that found out that Billy was still trying to scam people while out on bail.

I’m not going to say that paying Billy to appear was a capital-G “Good” thing, but I do think it was effective. Allowing him to talk himself in circles and then show his pathological lying doesn’t make him look good.

The biggest miss for me was the lack of focus on the Bahamians. I’ve heard that the Netflix doc does a better job of covering this angle. There’s basically one shot at the end saying that the Bahamians got screwed out of money, but it doesn’t cover the impact at all. I think there was a more effective ending that dunking on Billy for the 16th time.


#13

The Netflix one spends quite a while with folks in the Bahamas that got burned, including a restaurant owner who ended up burning through basically her whole savings trying to keep all these people fed.

This being 2019, somebody started a GoFundMe for her and it’s up over $140K now.


#14

My partner has now seen both and told me about the Netflix angle. Also the gofundme, which…honestly I hope that goes well.


#15

Saw the Netflix one and I thought it was pretty good. You get interviews from a lot of people involved, including part of the team making the app, some of the Bohemians who were extremely screwed over by this whole thing, and other people helping put this thing together, like a pilot in charge of logistics for the event who learned how to fly from…Microsoft Flight Simulation (and who arguably still was one of the most sensible/realistic people involved).

Strangely, part of me felt sorry for a number of the people portrayed here, even though many of them arguably should have known better or jumped ship way earlier. Except that one attendee girl who was trippin’ over the plane being “worse than low economy class flights.” Eff that noise lol.


#16

Having now finished the Hulu version and watched the Netflix one, I feel comfortable saying this: either watch both or neither, and I would strongly recommend the latter.


#17

I haven’t seen either yet, but I think the Hulu one is turning me off because, like, do I really need ANOTHER debatably humanizing portrayal of a thoroughly capitalist piece of shit? Jordan Belfort, Mark Zuckerberg, Ray Kroc (I have heard The Founder pulls absolutely no punches though), Bernie Madoff, we are absolutely inundated with stories like this and I really don’t think I can stomach anymore of “their side of the story”. Especially not when the asshole in question got paid for his time.


#18

I’d agree with that recommendation. I switched off half way through the Netflix doco. It’s just not a very interesting story how ever you spin it.


#19

(Netflix one) I don’t reccomend this. Technically proficient, but hollow, you will care about none of the characters save the Bahamians. There’s an attempt to stir emotions here; against Billy, against social media, the vapid materialism, but it feels like the same empty manipulation, a closed circle.


#20

I understand your trepidation, but the Hulu documentary portrays McFarland as a near sociopathic pathological liar who has zero remorse or awareness. He comes out looking really bad, in my opinion.

Totally understand taking issue with him getting paid for it though. Both documentaries have some serious ethical concerns.