Tribeca FF

Martha Shane, Jennifer 8. Lee, Rayouf Alhumedhi – Picture Character #Tribeca2019

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8 min. and 57 sec.

What we have and what we miss – the story of where the emoji that we use daily come from.

Play Podcast
8 min. and 57 sec.

PODCAST| Cosima Mattner interviews Martha Shane, Jennifer 8. Lee and Rayouf Alhumedhi, director, producer and emoji creator of the documentary Picture Character.

To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture

The spotlight documentary Picture Character is a thought provoking, fun and artistic tour through the universe of emoji – which is Japanese for “picture character.” We met one of the two directors, Martha Shane, the producer Jennifer 8. Lee and the hijab emoji creator Rayouf Alumedhi. The film had its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in NYC 2019 last weekend. What is a language? And what is the difference between emoji and words? Who gets to decide what new symbols get to be part of the language? Clever and creatively, Picture Character tracks the historical development of emoji from their beginnings in Japan in the 90s and sensitively studies their political and ethical implications. Featuring institutions and individuals from cultures as diverse as Argentina, Japan, the US and Europe, the film negotiates the emotional, identity-related and technical dimensions of emoji. Martha, Jennifer and Rayouf shared their personal emoji stories with us and how they discovered emoji as a complex and flexible tool for expression in digital communication. Their film explores how global players like the Unicode consortium monitor the set of emoji that is available globally and how that impacts peoples’ identities. Balancing between advocates of a standardization of emoji and campaigners for culturally specific emoji, the film shows how integral these characters have become to digital communication all over the world. Picture Character is an insightful and well-researched investigation of the world of emojis that puts on view how happy they make!

Picture CharacterThe 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. 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.

To discover more about the film, click here.

  • Reporter
    Cosima Mattner
  • Guest
    Martha Shane / Jennifer 8. Lee / Rayouf Alhumedhi
  • Interviewee role
    Director / Producer / Emoji creator
  • Film title
    Picture Character
  • Festival section
    Spotlight Documentary
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