Originally posted on The Critic
By Polly Kamukama
A Ugandan film has shed some light on the remarkably painful condition known as priapism – an erection that lasts too long and threatens to permanently harm the penis.
In Just Hours, a short film by Usama Osam Mukwaya, boldly addresses the rare condition that has of late attracted international attention due its linkage to misuse of sex-boosting drugs.
Produced at a shoestring budget of less than Shs1m by Mariam Ndagire under her Mariam Ndagire Film and Performing Arts Centre (MNFPAC), the 13-minute video first received public attention a few months back when it won Tanulu, an annual competition that pits films written and directed by MNFPAC alumni.
It bravely tells the story of Peter, a young sickle cell patient who wakes up one morning to find his penis engorged and painful. His attempts to cool it down hit a snug as the size only increases and the pain becomes unbearable.
Like is the case with most priapism victims, Peter is too ashamed to tell anyone. He even skips school, ashamed his friends would make fan of his bulging pants. Gradually, he slips into a potentially suicidal self-isolation, snubbing any attempts by his mother and girlfriend to have him checked.
“I found the topic (priapism) quite fascinating and shocking at the same time. So, I tasked myself to do thorough research about it,” Mukwaya says, confessing he had never heard of the condition hitherto Tanulu.
“We (contestants) were asked to choose between sickle cells and female genital mutilation as the subjects for our films,” Mukwaya said of the annual competition with a grand prize of $1,000 (about Shs2.6m).
A large number of priapism cases all over the world have been reported as side effects of overdosing on Viagra and other aphrodisiacs, although the condition sometimes occurs spontaneously without any apparent cause.
It is however most common in sickle cell patients in which red blood cells become deformed, allowing blood in the penis to thicken and not to be able to drain.
Mukwaya says he particularly found this fascinating since men are fond of boasting about prolonged erections, oblivious they could be toying with a deadly condition that might result to complete lose of manhood.
His initial idea was to approach the subject matter in a lighter manner with lots of scenes to laugh about. He even hoped to have the lead actor naked in the film’s landmark last scene featuring a shy Peter upon healing.
On the advice of Ndagire, however, the 24-year old short film maestro, part time model and host of Record TV’s Movie Digestshow, changed his heart – a wise move that has since resulted into production of a a more critical film about priapism, also known as four-hour-plus erection.
And it has paid off. In addition to winning Tanulu, In Just Hours, was a few days ago selected as one of the four Ugandan films to screen at this year’s Nile’s Diaspora Film Festival (Ndiff) where the young director hopes it will move audiences.
Its poor picture quality and shaky camera work, a result of a rushed two-day production, might however work against its success. The film also ignores some important facts about the condition whose statistics in Uganda are still shoddy.
Top on the list is the fact that priapism needs urgent medical attention by a qualified physician. According to the movie, the condition can be fixed by simply pouring ice on the enlarged penis, which is misleading.
Actually, if not treated by a doctor within 24 hours, the penis may become permanently damaged, leading to difficulties achieving an erection in future. And the treatments are anything but comfortable.
First, a blood sample is taken from the penis to confirm that a patient is indeed suffering from priapism. Then, the doctor typically puts a needle into the penis and tries to flush out the stagnant blood. In more extreme cases, the penis may be cut off to save life – all important facts that In Just Hours misses.
The film will nonetheless likely score big in creativity and storyline development, driven by a talented novice cast including Isaac Sentongo as Peter, Veronica Nakayo as the girlfriend and Allen Musumba as the mother.