A good idea can feed many mouths. Turns out, a bad idea can do the same. Director Chris Smith‘s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is the second of two documentaries — released in the span of four days (the other was distributed by Hulu) — to document the disaster and fraud of a music festival created by Ja Rule and Billy McFarland.
Solely following the events leading up to the festival, Smith’s documentary never diverts to the outside implications of this large-scale swindle. Smith goes behind the scenes to speak with the production and marketing teams to sketch the day-by-day travails of Fyre Fest, from the creation of the Orange Instagram post to the supermodel clad video that first announced the festival. Some of the individuals in the Netflix documentary appear in the Hulu iteration, such as J.R., Seth Crossno, and Calvin Wells.
The Netflix documentary differs greatly from the Hulu incarnation, mostly because of the money behind the film. Produced by Jerry Media/Fuck Jerry— the marketing arm of Fyre fest — FYRE lacks the rigorous examination of the former documentary. Smith’s ability to investigate the dysfunctional festival offers viewers a limited perspective as Jerry Media essentially dodges any responsibility from the ensuing disaster.
Missing from the documentary are Ja Rule and McFarland. Ja Rule shows up in archival footage, but McFarland takes on a shadowy and mysterious persona. There’s minimal push to examine the two central figures, as “blameless” subordinates parade across the screen.
Oddly, FYRE‘s success or failure isn’t determined by the film on the screen. Taken in a vacuum, the documentary represents a fascinating struggle to pull off a near-impossible feat under the guise of cronyism. If the Hulu-produced film didn’t exist, Netflix’s offering would be a fully worthwhile presentation.
But Hulu’s documentary does exist, and it is decidedly better. In every form and fashion, Hulu’s less entangled telling of the story offers greater depth, better interviews, and a wider share of accountability. If you wish to watch both documentaries, I would recommend viewing Netflix’s first. You won’t discover anything new or unique in FYRE once you’ve watched Fyre Fraud. There’s only one “memorable” addition: Andy King — a friend and believer in McFarland — who at one point, is asked to suck the dick of the island’s water official.
Smith’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened offers a how to of how to create and implode a music festival. The irony of McFarland’s con originating on Pablo Escobar’s island carries a bittersweet “joke,” especially for those hit hardest financially. Nevertheless, the Netflix documentary feels like a con in itself, considering the producers of the film. And if Fyre Fest has taught us anything, it’s to always consider the source.