Max Roach drum documentary making SXSW premiere

New film explores life of legendary drummer

A new film documentary about the life of legendary jazz drummer, composer, bandleader and social activist Max Roach will make its premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, TX. Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes explores the life and music of Roach who had a remarkable series of creative peaks, and also personal struggles and reinventions including the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights years, from the heady days of post-war modern jazz to hip hop and beyond.

The 83 minute film will premiere on Sunday, March 12th at 11 am CT at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar A. Directors Sam Pollard and Ben Shapiro will appear in person for a Q&A. A second showing will occur on Thursday, March 16th at 2:15 pm local time.

“Max Roach was not only a musical trailblazer on the bandstand and in the recording studio, but also on the front lines of the struggle during the Civil Rights movement,” Pollard shares. “The time I spent with him in the late 1980’s when I began this film was a defining moment for me as a filmmaker, and also as an African American man who loved and admired this legendary drummer, composer and activist.”

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes is the story of a musician whose far-reaching ambitions were inspired and challenged by the inequities of the society around him. His stunningly diverse seven-decade career marked him as one of the great musical artists of the 20th century–and a pioneering cultural activist–at times when the nation was steeped in racism. The film follows Roach across a rich and complicated life, days of now-legendary achievement and also deep personal struggle, and the price he paid for his outspoken views. His was an epic musical journey: from the revolutionary Jazz of the 1940s to the Civil Rights years; through experiments in Hip Hop, multi-media works and beyond.

The film draws from hours of previously unseen footage shot by Sam Pollard in the 1980s-90s including interviews, performances in studio, intimate scenes of life; Nearly ten hours of audio interviews with Max recalling his entire life story; Max Roach’s own vast personal archives: nearly 60 years of photographs, home movies, posters, recordings, and correspondence with folks ranging from Louis Armstrong to Malcolm X to hip hop pioneer Fab Five Freddy.

The film is produced by American Masters Pictures, in association with Ford Foundation|JustFilms and Black Public Media.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: