Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction, and the story told in the short documentary Little Potato is one of those times.
“My earliest memory is of my drunk father trying to hit my mother,” Wes Hurley says at the beginning of Little Potato, the film that tells his own life story and that won Best Short Documentary at this year’s SXSW Conferences. Wes grew up in Vladivostok, Russia, which his mother — the film’s other protagonist — describes as “the most corrupt and unpleasant” city in the Soviet Union.
The film follows Wes’s journey from a young kid with an outspoken mom to a young gay kid with a mom who simply wants what’s best for her son. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, American movies infiltrated Russia — they’re what “changed it all,” says Hurley — and he tells of films as wide-ranging as Ghost, Labyrinth, Curly Sue and Beetlejuice shedding light on a world outside the one he knew, found in the United States of America.
Ultimately his path to making his way stateside came when his mother signed up to become a Russian mail-order bride, and shortly thereafter the pair moved to Seattle, Washington, to be with their new father figure, James.
Upon the move to America, Wes and his mother discovered their new benefactor was an evangelical Christian and very conservative — something that didn’t mesh well with Wes’s burgeoning queerness. “He was always ranting about politics and religion. He was really angry about the state of the world, and secular schools, and the Clintons, and the gay rights movement,” Wes says.
But — and here’s that stranger-than-fiction part — James was hiding a secret from Wes and his mother. You’ll have to watch Little Potato below to see what it is, but we’ll just say it’s a doozy.