Celebrating Godzilla’s 70th Birthday with DePaul Faculty: Screening at the Siskel Center

The original poster for the Godzilla Movie. Godzilla is shooting a beam of fire through a Japanese plane in his hand, as the protagonists of the film look on in stoic horror.

One of the great things about DePaul is that it’s right in the heart of one of the best cities in the country. There’s something amazing going on in the city all the time, usually just a few steps away from either of our campuses. More often than not, DePaul will somehow be involved–like at the Siskel Center’s screening of Godzilla!

A part of the Siskel Center’s “Science on Screen” series, the Center and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (famous for keeping the Doomsday Clock) partnered together to celebrate the legendary film’s 70th anniversary. (Happy Birthday, Godzilla!) The show was followed by a discussion featuring DePaul Religious Studies faculty member Yuki Miyamoto, who brought her expertise in global Asian studies, nuclear discourse and environmental ethics to the panel. This event was the perfect combination of a thrilling time at the movies and an academic discussion about this complicated and enduring piece of cinema history.



A panel of sitting people in front of a theatre curtain. They are taking questions from the audience.
The facade of the Siskel Center building in Downtown Chicago.

I’d never been to the Siskel Center before, and I was amazed to discover that we have such an incredible film institution a short walk away from the loop campus. The Siskel Center screens all kinds of movies, with a special emphasis on international films, historically important films and even contemporary indies. I love going to the movies, and I was so excited to find a new place to see slightly more obscure films that I can’t catch at my local theater. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s there; Chicago has no shortage of impactful arts institutions!



I’d also never seen Godzilla! I was really impressed with how scary the movie was. Despite the obvious special effects limitations, the movie still packed quite a punch–it really made you feel small and helpless in comparison to such a powerful creature. The movie was also surprisingly direct. I knew that it was a pretty clear metaphor for the dangers of atomic warfare, but at several points in the movie the characters made the direct comparison themselves. I thought that was really interesting, and I suspect that is part of the reason the movie has continued to be so relevant.

A full movie theatre audience.
Professor Miyamoto talking during the panel. She wears a white blazer and blue blouse as she emphatically explains a concept to the audience.

The discussion with Professor Miyamoto after the show was a real highlight. She was joined by Saira Chambers, Japanese Cultural Center director, Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune film critic, and Robert K. Elder, president and CEO of the Outrider Foundation. All of them had a lot of interesting points to add, but I especially appreciated hearing Professor Miyamoto talk about the film’s reception in Japan and the difficulty critics have had in pinpointing exactly what Godzilla represents. Is he the nuclear bomb? A symbol for American? Just an innocent creature caught up in ecological destruction? Professor Miyamoto suggested that any and all of these interpretations are possible, and that part of the endurance of the film is in this ambiguity.

After the show, a representative from Kyodo News asked to interview me, and apparently my quote was featured in the story! That was the first time I’ve ever been quoted for a newspaper, but sharing it with people is a little difficult… since the article is entirely in Japanese. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was really me who was quoted!

A highlighted section from a Japanese newspaper article about Godzilla

I had a great time at this event, and I’m so excited to go back to the Siskel Center to see more movies. The only reason I knew about this in the first place is because I was on a DePaul mailing list advertising Professor Miyamoto’s talk after the show. If you end up coming to DePaul, keep an eye out for events like this one; there’s always something fun going on in this town, and the odds are good that someone from DePaul will be involved!


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