Even as decades passed a continent away, Barbara Mountcastle’s fond but fuzzy memories of her mother always brought calm.
More than 60 years after they were separated amid the tumult of post-World War II Japan, Mountcastle’s curiosity about her heritage took her from Fort Worth back to her birthplace in search of closure and maybe more.
The emotional journey is chronicled in Yokosuka 1953, a feature-length documentary that will screen on the closing night of the USA Film Festival at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.
Mountcastle was born Kigawa Yoko to a Japanese mother and an American serviceman stationed in Yokosuka after the war. As a young child, her overwhelmed mother sent her to an orphanage, where she was adopted by an American military family.
“Coming from a foreign country, you don’t know the language, I felt alone for six years,” she said. “People around me looked different and sounded different.”
Not only was she abused, but she felt the sting of prejudice so common toward biracial children at the time, especially given the sociopolitical volatility. Trying to learn English and assimilate into a new culture were minor concerns by comparison.
“It was very difficult for me. I was sad through all of my elementary school years,” she said. “I never felt like I connected to anybody.”
Only after she got married and had her first child did Mountcastle feel fully adjusted. Now 74 and a proud grandmother of 12, she has lived in Tarrant Country for 40 years.
“I always felt like my mother was with me. That’s what got me through my childhood. I had to keep her alive in my mind and in my heart,” Mountcastle said. “It felt like my DNA was over in Japan.”
Five years ago, Mountcastle’s children reached out via social media to people with the surname Kigawa in search of answers. Professor and researcher Kigawa Tsuyoshi, although unrelated, responded and offered to lead the search.
His documentary was filmed primarily in 2018, when he arranged for Mountcastle to visit Japan for the first time in 66 years, rekindling memories of a mother who never left her in spirit.
“I couldn’t remember what she looked like but I remembered a lot about her. She would hug me and carry me and was very kind,” Mountcastle said. “I was cared for in Japan and knew I was loved.”
Yokosuka 1953 screens at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Angelika during the USA Film Fest.
The five-day festival opens on Wednesday. All programs require tickets. Other noteworthy events on the schedule include:
- A short documentary from local filmmaker Quin Matthews on the history of Robert Irwin’s sculpture Portal Park Piece (Slice) at the new Carpenter Park in downtown Dallas. (7 p.m. Wednesday)
- A world premiere of Omar Sosa’s 88 Well Tuned Drums, a documentary about the Grammy nominated Cuban jazz pianist and composer. Sosa will be in attendance. (5 p.m. Saturday)
- A 50th anniversary screening of the 1972 Steve McQueen action-thriller The Getaway, featuring a tribute to co-star Sally Struthers. The Sam Peckinpah movie was made in Texas. (7 p.m. Saturday)