Lisa Lopes was a sad, tortured person—that much was clear after the TLC singer burned down her boyfriend's mansion in Atlanta back in 1994. But until you've seen the documentary "Last Days of Left Eye" (premiering May 19 on VH1), you have no idea how miserable she was. There are the scars on her forearm that spell HATE—Lopez cut the letters with a disposable razor, in part to obscure the LOVE that she had carved before. At its height, TLC was the top-selling female R&B group, but that didn't stop Lopes from fighting with her bandmates, with the media and with her father, whom she blamed for turning her into an alcoholic. Lopes actually started the film during a 2002 "spiritual journey" to Honduras, where she'd hoped to make peace with her many demons. But bad luck seemed to follow her like a dark cloud, and it flew with her to Honduras, too. Lopes is in the passenger seat—and filming—when her car runs over a 7-year-old boy and kills him. It gets worse. A few days later, Lopes is driving—and the camera is again rolling—when she swerves off the road. You hear the screams. You see the car veer to the left. And within a matter of seconds, Lopes is dead.
Releasing the documentary—including the footage of Lopes's last few seconds—was a wrenching, but ultimately satisfying, decision for her family. "It gives us a chance to be with her again, and I think that outweighs the pain of seeing some of the unpleasant moments," says Lisa's brother, Ronald, who adds that VH1 wanted to use more film of the accident, but the family vetoed that. The film was directed by Lauren Lazin, who also directed the acclaimed posthumous documentary "Tupac Resurrection." If that movie felt more riveting than "Left Eye"— few people could match Tupac Shakur's magnetism—her new film does a terrific job of peeling back the layers of one of pop music's most inscrutable superstars. "I spoke to her a month before her trip, and she said that she thought she might die young, like Tupac," says Lazin. "I thought that was an odd statement to make, but she said she didn't see death like everyone else. She saw it as a transition. She would have wanted people to see her transition." And so they have, but in a way even Lopes couldn't have foreseen.