Past Film/Video | Documentaries

The Emoji Story

(Ian Cheney and Martha Shane, 2019)

A person stands next to a rock painted to look like the poop emoji, which is a brown object with eyes

Dive into the ever-evolving world of emoji and discover their fascinating history with this entertaining and insightful documentary.

Martha Shane and Ian Cheney’s doc The Emoji Story examines ubiquitous “emoji” (Japanese for picture character) from their rather humble beginnings to being an almost indispensable feature of smartphone keyboards the world over. The rise of this new digital language has also sparked questions and controversies about representation, identity, inclusion, and the role of the Unicode Consortium, the Silicon Valley–based nonprofit that has to approve new emoji for widespread use.  (81 mins., DCP)

The film is presented free of charge in conjunction with the exhibition Jacqueline Humphries: jHΩ1:), now on view in our galleries. Make a day of it and check out the exhibition before or after the film and see how Humphries explores and plays with digital language in her work.

"Given how long emoji have been’s surprising that The Emoji Story feels like the first time we’re putting actual faces to the governing body behind the cultural phenomenon."
The Verge
A person stands next to a rock painted to look like the poop emoji, which is a brown object with eyes

The Emoji Story | Photo by Taylor Gentry

The Japanese inventor of emoji for DoCoMo, Shigetaka Kurita, handdraws his original smiley face emoji.

The Emoji Story | Photo by Lucy Martens

The family of the creator of the hijab emoji, Rayouf Alhumedhi, celebrates the emoji’s arrival on the iPhone in fall 2017.

The Emoji Story | Photo by Lucy Martens

The Japanese inventor of emoji for DoCoMo, Shigetaka Kurita, admires his original designs on exhibit after they were collected by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

The Emoji Story | Photo by Jack Shanahan

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Past Film/Video

The Emoji Story