“So she’s scared. She thinks I’m gonna kill her,” Onfroy says in one recording, despite having insisted repeatedly that Ayala was lying about him. Videos also capture various fights and assaults on others, which in essence became part of his brand.
Bernard concedes that image worked to her son’s advantage, observing about XXXTentacion’s career, “He figured out a way to get attention to himself, and even though it was negative things, it worked.” To her credit, she also meets during the film with Ayala, who experienced threats and social-media backlash from his fans at the time because of his legal troubles.
Still, director Sabaah Folayan faces a daunting task in presenting Onfroy’s personal struggles and the victimization of Ayala while also highlighting his brief career and talent, mostly by relying upon interviews with friends and family.
At one point, asked about Onfroy’s excesses, Bernard says, “Even if he’s Hitler, that’s my son,” adding of her support for him, “Any mother would have done the same thing, I would think” — statements that seemingly cry out for follow-up questions that don’t come.
“Look At Me: XXXTENTACION” focuses on the good that XXXTentacion did through his relationship with fans, featuring some of them discussing how his music helped them through difficult times. Yet there’s little consideration given to the questionable aspects of that, such as his assertion, “This is a cult, not a fan base.”
At its core the documentary conveys the factors that shaped his work, and contends, based on the testimony of those close to him, that Onfroy was in the process of making changes to his life when he died.
As for what transpired before then, “Look at Me” offers glimpses, but it’s not a fully developed picture.
“Look At Me: XXXTENTACION” premieres May 26 on Hulu.