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The Fyre Festival was the con of a generation. Two streaming docs tell the story.

Netflix and Hulu both premiered films focusing on how things went so horribly wrong.

Billy McFarland in Fyre Fraud.
Billy McFarland in Hulu’s Fyre Fraud.
Hulu

Every week, new original films debut on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, often to much less fanfare than their big-screen counterparts. Cinemastream is Vox’s series highlighting the most notable of these premieres, in an ongoing effort to keep interesting and easily accessible new films on your radar.

Fyre (Netflix) and Fyre Fraud (Hulu)

The premise: In 2017, the Fyre Festival sold hundreds of tickets to an exclusive event on a secluded Bahamian island. But when attendees showed up, they discovered reality did not match with what they were promised. And once word got out, the internet loved it.

What they’re about: Two documentaries about the ill-fated Fyre Festival are now out on competing streaming services, having dropped within a week of each other. One, Fyre Fraud, premiered on Hulu on Monday, January 15; the other, Fyre, premiered on Netflix on Friday, January 18. They cover a lot of the same ground, with some key differences.

Fyre Fraud explicitly critiques Fyre, and features an interview with Billy McFarland, the mastermind of the Fyre Festival con who is now in federal prison. Fyre Fraud tries to connect the dots between the festival and millennial culture, particularly with regard to how Instagram influencers can convince people to pony up a lot of money for something like this.

Fyre is more interested in how McFarland was able to dupe so many people — not just the ones who bought tickets to the festival, but those who joined his vision and worked for him, or the wealthy investors who believed in him and gave him millions of dollars. The film is especially devastating when it focuses on some of the Bahamians whom McFarland’s schemes hurt the most.

Which of the two documentaries should you watch? Well, both wander into potentially ethically murky territory; Fyre is partly executive-produced by the company that McFarland hired to market Fyre Festival, while Fyre Fraud paid McFarland an undisclosed sum (but likely many thousands of dollars) for his interview. Pound for pound, Fyre is a much better film, with a clearer argument to make, and if you can only watch one, that’s the one to watch. But if you have time for both, Fyre Fraud is plenty interesting too.


Rating for Hulu’s Fyre Fraud:

Rating for Netflix’s Fyre:


Critical consensus: Critics have praised both films; Fyre has a score of 75 on Metacritic, and Fyre Fraud has a score of 65. At Entertainment Weekly, Leah Greenblatt writes that Fyre is “more than a bonfire of the inanities; it’s a shrewd indictment of a dream gone spectacularly, criminally wrong.” At RogerEbert.com, Nick Allen writes that Fyre Fraud is “a damnation of the mentality that helped make it possible, calling out a culture that progressively puts more value into how you make yourself look online.”

Where to watch: Fyre is streaming on Netflix. Fyre Fraud is streaming on Hulu. You can watch the trailers for both films below.