When Netflix announced they’d be releasing a documentary detailing the horrors of Fyre Festival, we were ready to grab our popcorn immediately. Netflix announced their documentary would hit the streaming site on January 18th, but days before the drop, Hulu made it clear they had the same idea in mind: their documentary hit the platform before Netflix’s FYRE could tell its story. Naturally, I couldn’t resist the temptation of digging deep into what really went wrong at Fyre Festival, so I came home and immediately tuned into Hulu’s FYRE FRAUD. But on the 18th, I also decided to watch Netflix’s interpretation of a Fyre Festival documentary, and it didn’t feel like I watched the same story twice — both platforms offered different perspectives through interviews, direction, and cinematography. If you haven’t watched one (or both) of the documentaries, I’m here to tell you why you should give each film the opportunity to tell its story.
Beginning with Hulu’s FYRE FRAUD for the sake of chronological order, this documentary boasts one element that essentially trumps Netflix’s entire production: an on-camera interview with Billy McFarland, the man behind Fyre Festival. This is the element that reeled most viewers in, I think, and for good reason — how great is it to watch this man essentially get interrogated by the interviewer on camera with dramatic lighting? It’s tense, and it’s addictive because it’s tense. He’s in the hot seat with a totally cocky demeanor (of course) from the get-go, but as the film pushes on, things take a turn and the stakes are raised to the nth degree. The storytelling method in Hulu’s version follows a pretty strict chronological order, starting with Billy McFarland’s backstory and his previous business endeavors — in Netflix’s documentary, they tend to bounce around when it comes to Billy’s career, but not in a way that’s too confusing.
Both documentaries rely on interviews with the people behind the festival, and even if Netflix’s doc doesn’t include the coveted interview with Billy, they picked some essential people for their production. Hearing stories from event producer Andy King (the Evian dick-sucking story will never be forgotten), restaurant owner Maryann Rolle (I cried when we neared the end of her story), and festival consultant Marc Weinstein easily made Netflix’s documentary more personal. When it comes to the people we saw in both documentaries, I’ve come to the conclusion that FYRE FRAUD leaves you feeling shocked and entertained; FYRE leaves you feeling angry and appalled. That anger from Netflix’s film stems from the feeling of helplessness regarding the Bahaman workers and some of the people who worked closely with Billy, who learned they’d been manipulated by him in the end.
From a cinematography standpoint, Netflix takes the cake — it’s probably because they had a bigger budget and a better director than Hulu’s film. Netflix utilized scenic views, dramatic frames, and pristine editing; it just feels like it’s clean, smooth, and flows pretty effortlessly. Although Netflix succeeded in telling a compelling story scene-by-scene, Hulu’s version is still enjoyable to the eye and relies on telling the story through facts and Billy’s point of view versus that of his crew. The way they framed Billy during his interview scenes speaks a thousand words: the camera feels like it’s on the floor, angled upwards toward Billy to make him look bigger than he really is and to show us the large shadow behind him. It’s intense.
With all of this in mind, if you haven’t watched one or both of the documentaries, I urge you to do so this weekend. I’d start with Hulu’s FYRE FRAUD so you can get the inside scoop from Billy himself (and his girlfriend — that’ll probably fill you with rage) and get the story in precise chronological order. Once you’re feeling all tensed up by the end, get started with Netflix’s FYRE to bask in the near-perfect direction of their documentary. I think Hulu’s version is more informative, but Netflix has long been capable of telling a story in a way that resonates with us emotionally. Sit back, relax, and get lost in the horror that was Fyre Festival.