New Documentary Explores the Unique Process of Creating an Emoji


Published April 28, 2019 at 8:02 pm


If you’re into texting or messaging at all, then there’s no doubt you use emojis on a regular basis. In fact, they’ve become such an ingrained part of our digital communication that it’s easy to forget there’s a whole unique process behind their creation.

It’s this process and more that the new documentary, Picture Character, aims to explore.

Premiering today (Sunday, April 28) at the annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, the film takes a look at how emojis — the Japanese translation for “picture character” — have evolved to become their own kind of language, one that is used daily by billions of people around the world.

According to the documentary’s website, Picture Character leads 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.”

The documentary takes a look at examples of how ordinary citizens have campaigned for the creation of new emojis such as the ones depicting menstruation, the Argentinian mate, and the hijab.

In a teaser clip posted to the film’s Youtube channel, the creator of the hijab emoji, young Rayouf Alhumedhi, explains why she created it.

“I started using emojis when I was around 11 years old,” Alhumedhi said. “For communication with friends, it’s a really huge part to the point that it’s kind of scary.”

She explains that in a group chat with her friends, each person had an emoji to represent them except for her — causing her to jokingly combine the woman emoji with the emoji of a man wearing a turban.

“But that’s what got me thinking, ‘Why on earth is there no hijab emoji?'” Alhumedhi said.

The full clip can be seen below:

The film has a runtime of 81 minutes and is directed by Martha Shane and Ian Cheney, two award-winning directors whose other works include After Tiller and The Most Unknown, respectively.

Picture Character will run as part of the festival on Sunday, April 28, Tuesday, April 30, Thursday, May 2, and Sunday, May 5.

The Tribeca Film Festival was established in 2002 and is held every April in the Tribeca neighbourhood in Manhattan, New York City.

For more information on Picture Character and all the other films premiering at TFF, visit the festival’s website at

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