Fyre Festival documentary duel: Two competing movies premiere in the same week

January 14, 2019

by Carla Hay

Fyre Festival

The notorious Fyre Festival is the subject of two documentary films that are premiering in the same week. “Fyre Fraud” (directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby) premieres on Hulu on January 14, 2019, while “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” (directed by Chris Smith) premieres on Netflix on January 18, 2019, in addition to “Fyre” having a limited theatrical release on January 18 in New York City and Los Angeles. Although it’s not unusual for two separate documentary films to cover the same subject, it’s extremely rare for them to premiere in the same week.

Fyre Festival was one of the biggest music-industry frauds of this decade. The event, which was heavily promoted on the Internet, was advertised as a star-studded music festival in the Bahamas, offering a luxury experience that was scheduled to take place over two weekends in late April/early May 2017. Instead, attendees arrived at the festival site to find a garbage-filled area with very little shelter except flimsy tents and limited, substandard food options. Fyre Festival was cancelled one day before it was set to begin, and event founder/promoter Billy McFarland was eventually sentenced to six years in prison for fraud. Hip-hop star Ja Rule, who was advertised as a co-founder of the festival, quickly distanced himself from this disaster after the event was cancelled. Ja Rule issued a public apology, placed all the blame on McFarland, and avoided any criminal prosecution, although he and McFarland had several lawsuits brought against them.

There are sure to be many reviews comparing “Fyre Fraud” and “Fyre.” Hulu is making an effort to give “Fyre Fraud” an advantage by having the movie premiere first, and emphasizing that the film has an exclusive interview with McFarland that was done after the festival was cancelled and before he went to prison. “Fyre Fraud” also has media resources such as Mic (the news site aimed at millennials) and music-industry trade magazine Billboard as executive producers of the film. Meanwhile, Netflix’s “Fyre” has Vice Studios as a media partner in producing the documentary. Based on the official trailers and descriptions each documentary, “Fyre” seems to have a more straight-forward approach to the subject matter, while “Fyre Fraud” aims to take a more scathing look at the sociological circumstances that allowed this fraud to become as big as it was. Hulu describes “Fyre Fraud” as a “true-crime comedy,” which indicates that there will be a mocking tone to the film.

Meanwhile, the directors of each documentary have accused each other of questionable ethics, according to TechCrunch. The “Fyre” team said they turned down McFarland’s demands to be paid for an interview. McFarland eventually went to the “Fyre Fraud” filmmakers, who agreed to pay McFarland a six-figure sum (reportedly between $100,000 to $200,000) to be interviewed for “Fyre Fraud.” Meanwhile, the “Fyre Fraud” team says the ethics of “Fyre” are compromised because the film had executive producer involvement from James Ohliger and Elliot Tebele, two co-founders of Jerry Media, the company that marketed the Fyre Festival. A former Jerry Media employee interviewed in “Fyre Fraud” claims that high-ranking Jerry executives knew early on that the festival was a scam, but willingly perpetuated the scam out of greed. “Fyre” director Smith says that despite Jerry Media’s involvement in the film, he still had separate editorial control and did not shy away from depicting Jerry Media’s responsibility in the Fyre Festival fiasco.

FYRE FRAUD

Here is Hulu’s trailer and description of “Fyre Fraud”:

The Fyre Festival was the defining scam of the millennial generation, at the nexus of social media influence, late-stage capitalism, and morality in the post-truth era. Marketing for the 2017 music event went viral with the help of rapper Ja Rule, instagram stars, and models, but turned epic fail after stranding thousands in the Bahamas. Featuring an exclusive interview with Billy McFarland, the convicted con-man behind the festival; “Fyre Fraud” is a true-crime comedy bolstered by a cast of whistleblowers, victims, and insiders going beyond the spectacle to uncover the power of FOMO and an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and a lack of accountability in the digital age.

Emmy™ nominated and Peabody™ award-winning directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason executive produce along with Michael Gasparro, The Cinemart, MIC and Billboard.

DIRECTORS STATEMENT:

“Fyre Fraud” is more than the story of a failed music festival in the Bahamas – this dark comedy is a cautionary tale for a generation.

Billy McFarland offers us a window into the mind of a con artist, the insidious charm of the fraudster and how they can capture our imaginations, our investment, and our votes in the age of Trump. McFarland’s staggering ambition metastasized in a petri dish of late-stage capitalism, corporate greed, and predatory branding, all weaponized by our fear of missing out.

Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor – but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant – to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole.

FYRE: THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED

Here is Netflix’s trailer and description of “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened”:

An exclusive behind the scenes look at the infamous unraveling of the Fyre music festival. Created by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, Fyre was promoted as a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas featuring bikini-clad supermodels, A-List musical performances and posh amenities. Guests arrived to discover the reality was far from the promises.
Chris Smith, the director behind the Emmy Award Nominated documentary “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond,” gives a first-hand look into disastrous crash of Fyre as told by the organizers themselves.
Written & Directed by: Chris Smith (“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” (2017), “American Movie” (1999 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Documentary), “Collapse” (2009)) Produced by Library Films, Jerry Media, Matte Projects VICE Studios, and VICE Studios. Executive Producers: Brett Kincaid, Max Pollack, Matthew Rowean, Gabrielle Bluestone, James Ohliger, Elliot Tebele. Edited by Jon Karmen, Koehler.

 

 

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