To the everyday viewer, it may seem like Hulu and Netflix have been in a streaming war since the dawn of time (or at least since 2008), but the competition soared to new heights of savagery earlier this year when both services released documentaries about the notorious Fyre Festival within days of each other. The truth is though, these two documentaries tell vastly different tales with the same cast of characters, be they villains or victims.
To set the scene, both documentaries provide insider knowledge about the infamous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas. Organized by Billy McFarland and sporting Ja Rule as the face of the event, Fyre Festival was supposed to be a luxury concert that was the perfect blend of Coachella and a Victoria Secret swimsuit photoshoot. What it ended up being was the worst social media disaster of all time. Looting occurred, hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost, sobbing selfies were taken.
On the front-end, Netflix's documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened received far more promotion and interest leading up to its premiere, but Hulu flipped the script when it surprise-dropped a doc of its own, Fyre Fraud, four days before Netflix's documentary was scheduled to premiere. If that feels like a publicity stunt to you, don't worry -- it definitely was. However, comparing the two films isn't easy since they focused on very different stories that both orbited this massive festival fail.
Hulu's doc presents the story of the alleged con-artist Billy McFarland and his life before, leading up to, and after the failure of Fyre Festival, honing in on the crimes he committed in the name of putting on an exclusive concert. Netflix, on the other hand, devotes more time to the planning phases of the event, as well as the behind-the-scenes drama of Fyre Media, the company behind the festival. So which should you watch? We've laid it all out for you below.
The Hulu documentary boasts one major thing Netflix's doc cannot, which is an actual, in-depth interview with Billy McFarland. While you may start out believing that this project will show you a rose-tinted version of Billy's crimes, what you get is anything but. Eventually, the interview turns into a bit of an interrogation, in which the interviewer point-blank asks Billy questions about crimes, lies, and consequences -- to which Billy asks for a 10-minute break and then says, "No comment." Basically, if you're looking for a way to watch a douchey criminal live his worst nightmare, this is the one for you. Hilariously enough (or morbidly, depending on your point of view), the filmmakers manage to draw some horrifying parallels between Billy McFarland and President Donald Trump. Between their apparent lack of remorse for past wrongdoings, larger than life personalities and outlandish promises that seem immediately doomed to remain unfulfilled, it's pretty hard to ignore how these two men seem to be marching to the beat of the same drum.
Ultimately, this doc is a more whimsical version of events that occasionally makes some good points about the toxic effects of our social media-obsessed culture.
Fyre gives you an insider's look into the actual making of the festival, including interviews with event producers, bookers and strategists. Chris Smith's version of events paints a vivid picture of the planning process and the many issues that plagued the over-leveraged festival in the weeks and months leading up to the event. If you're hoping for a tell-all expose on the disturbing details about the festival's wild spending, bribery -- seriously, there's a story about trying to bribe Bahamian authorities with a blowjob -- and the subsequent, frantic damage control, this documentary is definitely more your pace. It will also give you a good idea of how much everyone at Fyre Media clearly wants Billy McFarland to get hit by a cab.
This documentary relies less heavily on attendees' versions of events than Hulu's film, though it does still contain testimonials from festival-goers. Rather than ironically poking fun at them like the Hulu doc does though, the Netflix doc lets them dig their own grave, leaving you a little conflicted about everything they went through; like, yes, it was a horrible experience that was probably terrifying and scarring, but dear god, these people and their privilege are unbearable, which makes it pretty hard to feel sorry for them.
More than anything, Netflix's doc leaves you with an urge to send some cash to those Bahamian workers who actually built the damn festival so they're finally paid the money they're owed. At the end of the day, they were truly the only innocent victims of this clusterf---.
Bottom line: The Netflix documentary will give you all the salacious details about the actual festival, while Hulu will fill in the blanks about Billy McFarland's crimes while also throwing in some good giggles. Neither documentary, however, will help you understand what the hell Ja Rule's role in all of this was and how he escaped legal ramifications since he did not sit for an interview for either film.
Fyre Fraud is currently streaming on Hulu and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is currently streaming on Netflix.
Update: Netflix's Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened was nominated for Outstanding documentary or nonfiction special for the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards, while Hulu's Fyre Fraud did not receive any nominations.