Fighting Fyre with Fyre

Jordan Jewell, Engagement Editor

Swimming with pigs, Pablo Escobar’s private island and Ja Rule. What could possibly go wrong?

The short answer: everything. And that is exactly what happened during the 2017 music festival entitled Fyre Fest.

The festival was promoted for months by social media influencers. Everyone from Kendall Jenner to Ja Rule was posting about the event on social media, promising it was going to be a once in a lifetime experience.

People paid upward of $10,000 for ticket packages that promised five-star housing, personal chefs and performances by Diplo and GOOD Music. All of this was set to be taking place on a luxury island, allegedly owned by Pablo Escobar.

The guests arrived to a complete disaster. There was no food, no music, and nowhere to stay. How did this modernized heaven turn into a millennial’s worst nightmare?

Fyre Festival was a scam. It’s prompted conspiracy theories, news broadcasts, podcast episodes and most recently, two competing documentaries.

At the beginning of 2019, Netflix and Hulu released Fyre Festival documentaries within four days of each other.

Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud” came out first and features one on one interviews with Billy McFarland, the mastermind behind the festival and countless other scams that target millennials.

When McFarland was in elementary school he would hack the computers and tell students he was the only one who could fix them. He’s been scamming since birth.

McFarland takes no blame in his interviews. Despite countless testimonials from Fyre Festival employees that state that McFarland not only knew the festival was going to fail but also committed wire fraud to hide its failure, he insists it was all just a stroke of bad luck.

The Netflix documentary entitled “Fyre” is about five minutes longer than Hulu’s, but felt like a lifetime. It was enjoyable at times, but other spots dragged.

Netflix devoted a lot of its time to the social media marketing that went into Fyre Festival. We saw Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid dancing on a private yacht. And then we saw that same clip about five more times.

I understand wanting to show the impact influencers had on Fyre Festival’s ticket sales, but Hulu was able to showcase that same impact through interviews instead of promotional clips.

“Fyre” does share some very important information about the effect the festival had on the island. Maryann Rolle, a local hotel owner, ended up paying over 100 of McFarland’s employees’ wages with her own money after McFarland left town.

Both films gave us plenty of interesting characters.

“Fyre Fraud” introduces Delray Jackson, a hilarious bartender who spends most of the film throwing shade at McFarland, and Anastasia Eremenko, McFarland’s gorgeous Russian girlfriend who seems like even she might not know the full story.

“Fyre” introduces us to Andy, one of Fyre’s advisers who I spent most of the film thinking was McFarland’s father. This man will really do anything for the scammer… and I mean anything.

Both documentaries are informative in their own way. If you’re looking to learn a little bit about Billy McFarland’s insane scamming ways and how the idea for Fyre Fest came about, check out “Fyre Fraud.” If you’re more interested in the happenings at the festival itself, I’d recommend “Fyre.”