Picture Character (2019)

  • 1h 21m
  • Ian Cheney
  • Martha Shane
  • United States, Germany, Japan, Argentina
  • 2019

“I just thought it was something that would make people happy.”
– Shigetaka Kurita, inventor of the emoji

Ian Cheney and Martha Shane take a deep dive past the smiling poos 💩💩💩 into the complex, 🤯 and often 😂😂😂 world of the creators, lovers and arbiters of emoji – the world’s newest pictorial language.

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 their place as an emerging digital language, but have also prompted difficult questions about the creation of a language.

“Everything you always wanted to know
about emojis, but were afraid to ask.”

– Frank Sheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Not least among those questions are issues of race, identity and inclusion. Approval of new emojis lies in the hands of a private company, the Unicode Consortium — the members of which are mostly white, male tech executives.

Shigetaka Kurita, the Japanese interface designer who invented emojis over 20 years ago, created 176 emojis. From their humble beginnings in Japan, they’ve spread – to mobile 📲 the 🌏 over.

There are now 2,823 emojis. 👏👏👏👏👏

Watch Q&A: Matthew Donaldson talks to producer Jennifer 8. Lee

Previous festival selections include:

Hot Docs
AFI Docs


Ian Cheney


Martha Shane


English, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish

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