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Review: The Two Fyre Festival Documentaries on Hulu and Netflix

Keith Higgons

Posted on January 19, 2019 09:59

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The Fyre Festival documentaries are on fire.

If you're above a certain age and/or oblivious of pop culture, you probably have no idea about the fiasco that was the Fyre Festival. Basically, it was conceived as a high end/exclusive concert on a remote Caribbean island. For a price the hoi polloi could hang out & party with the rich & famous (or at least social media famous). Well, that was the vision of millennial entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule.

The reality was radically different.

The Fyre Festival is to music festivals what the 1985 film Gymkata is to American cinema.

Hulu's documentary, Fyre Fraud, and Netflix's documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened detail both the rapid rise and epic fall of the festival. Now, you may be scratching your head wondering if this example of millennial hubris and chicanery is worthy of two documentaries. Oddly, it is.

While the festival advertising promised exclusive housing, what it delivered was left over FEMA tents. While the advertising promised exclusive dining, what it delivered was cheese sandwiches in a styrofoam container. While the festival promised an exclusive island that was once owned by Pablo Escobar, what it delivered was a section on the island of Exuma, a couple miles away from a Sandals Resort.

Yes, both documentaries tell essentially the same story. Sure, there is some overlap with interviews but the story that's told is consistent. And the main story appears to be that Billy McFarland is an unparalleled flimflam man who apparently has charisma beyond what seems humanly possible, up to and including getting his one of his seasoned employees to "take one for the team" (wink wink) and having others put festival charges on their personal credit cards . . . to the tune of well over 100k!

All told, Mssr's McFarland and Rule duped people out of many millions of dollars. Somehow even getting Comcast Ventures to sign a letter of intent to invest (to be fair, that investment was not to be in the music festival, but rather an app the two were creating with the Fyre branding). Oddly, there is more hurt in the interviewees than anger.

There were many that played a role in the Fyre Festival failure, but ultimately it was McFarland's collapse (left unanswered was how Ja Rule escaped prosecution, McFarland got six years). 

There is a lot of texture to both of these docs and odds are if you watch one, you'll probably watch the other. Is one documentary better than the other? No. Although the Hulu doc does have a newish interview with McFarland that's worth watching.

Had McFarland succeeded there would be two different documentaries. He didn't. He failed. In an epic manner.

As both films indicate, we've not heard the last of Billy McFarland. Sadly, we seem to celebrate and reward the hubris of hucksters like Billy McFarland.

As social critic and journalist H.L. Mencken once said "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Maybe McFarland should produce a remake of Gymkata.

Keith Higgons

Posted on January 19, 2019 09:59

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Source: CNET

Get a healthy dose of internet schadenfreude with competing Hulu and Netflix documentaries on the doomed music festival.

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