On Oct. 14, Colorado State University will host the long-awaited premiere of the documentary film Robert’s Village, chronicling the efforts of CSU alumna Laura Schreck and CSU alumnus and custodian Robert Serunjogi to provide assistance to his hometown in Uganda.
Robert’s Village captures a true story with all the makings of a Hollywood trope: one fateful encounter can change lives. The film was shot in 2019, but the film’s story starts in 2015 with a simple conversation that happened on Colorado State University’s campus and eventually led to building a school in Uganda.
The 33-minute film, directed by CSU videographer Brian Buss, will be screened at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Behavioral Sciences Building, Room A131, and will be available online for 24 hours. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Buss, Serunjogi, Schreck and others involved in a trip to the Ugandan village in summer 2019: Scott Schreck, Chris Schreck, Patrick Lindsell, Brian Jones and Sheila Ferguson.
Serunjogi, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from CSU, lost most of his family members during the brutal slayings of Uganda’s Idi Amin administration. After fleeing his home country, Serunjogi started working as a janitor at Colorado State University. While working on campus in 2015, he met then-CSU student Laura Schreck and struck up a conversation. This chance meeting led to the pair working together and raising $90,000 to build a school for the displaced children in Serunjogi’s hometown of Buweyeo. The four buildings that were constructed have also served as health clinics and dorms.
In 2019, Robert and Laura — joined by Laura’s parents, Buss and representatives of CSU’s renowned Little Shop of Physics science outreach program — visited the school, donated educational materials and witnessed the village in a period of rebuilding after civil war.’
Buss created a short video clip for Source in 2019. He quickly realized that his footage and the story beckoned to be a much longer film and began editing what would become Robert’s Village. Buss submitted an early version of the short film to CSU’s ACT Human Rights Film Festival in early 2020 where it was accepted for inclusion in the April 2020 film festival.
A COVID plot twist
As in Hollywood, unexpected events offer plot twists and opportunities for growth. The same is true for the film’s development. In real life, the planned premiere of Robert’s Village was cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered theatres and halted in-person events. Tickets to the film premiere had been sold and were then refunded. Buss decided to take some of this time to continue revising and editing the film.
“Communally gathering to enjoy a film is unreplaceable,” Beth Seymour, the ACT Film Festival’s managing director. “Robert’s Village offers CSU communities the opportunity to convene and celebrate the power of education and philanthropy. It also offers a chance to learn more about filmmaking and how audience members can help this initiative.”
The story of Robert’s Village continues to develop and grow. Recently, a group of supporters have started the process to incorporate a formal nonprofit, Robert’s Orphanage and School, to solicit charitable gifts and help sustain the school’s operations.
“Since the documentary was filmed in 2019, a lot has changed for me personally (leaving Colorado and starting medical school) and globally (COVID),” said Laura Schreck, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Health and Exercise Science from CSU. “However, I am not exaggerating when I say I have continued to think about the students and village every day since we returned. The project has remained very active, the village continues to grow, and the children of Buyeeyo still need help.”
About Brian Buss and ACT
Brian Buss is a videographer and documentary filmmaker living in Bellevue, Colorado. Look out for his next documentary, Les is More, a cinema verité film featuring artist Les Sunde and lessons in being just a little brave.
The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is a program of Colorado State University’s Department of Communication Studies. The program brings films and filmmakers from around the world to Fort Collins to connect at the intersection of culture, art, and social justice. Its seventh annual film festival will take place March 31-April 3, 2022 in Fort Collins, with a virtual encore festival scheduled April 4-10, 2022.