Picture Character. The inventor of emoji, Shigetaka Kurita, draws his original smiley face emoji.
Picture Character. The inventor of emoji, Shigetaka Kurita, draws his original smiley face emoji.

Picture Character, a documentary about emojis, will have its World Premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Directors Martha Shane and Ian Cheney take us deep into the world of Emojis (Japanese for “picture character”), from the private non-profit international consortium that standardized emoji offerings and decides on the introduction of new ones, to the campaigns for new emojis such as those depicting menstruation and Argentinian mate, and to the very beginnings of emojis in Japan.

Picture Character. Linguist Tyler Schnoebelen with San Francisco’s beloved poop rock.
Picture Character. Linguist Tyler Schnoebelen with San Francisco’s beloved poop rock.

The rapid rise 📈 of emoji (Japanese for “picture character”) is a global 🌍 phenomenon without precedent. Their widespread use and ability to convey complex messages have not only cemented emoji’s place as an emerging digital language 🗣, but prompted difficult questions 🤔 about the creation of a language and digital communication’s fraught ties 😣 to identity and inclusion.

Picture Character. Rayouf Alhumedhi, creator of the hijab emoji, in Vienna.
Picture Character. Rayouf Alhumedhi, creator of the hijab emoji, in Vienna.

In Picture Character, Directors Martha Shane and Ian Cheney lead viewers 👀 on a deep dive into the ever evolving world of picture characters, from their humble beginnings in Japan 🇯🇵 to mobile keyboards 📱 the world 🌎 over, and shed fresh light 💡 on the private consortium 👥 that approves new emoji offerings and the individuals fighting ✊ to make the language more representative of its billions of users.

Ian Cheney is an Emmy®-nominated and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films include King Corn and  The Most Unknown; and Martha Shane is an Emmy®-winning filmmaker, director of After Tiller and producer of From This Day Forward .

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