Nigeria’s Amata dynasty has entertainment running in its blood.
There are three generations of actors, directors and producers – all have played, or are playing a crucial role in Nigeria’s film and theatre industry.
Then there’s the multi-skilled Fred who works as an actor, producer and director. He is the king of the Nigerian video industry – the enormously popular home-grown film business.
Fred Amata is married to Agatha (school friend) for over 10 years and are blessed with kids. When asked how it has been?
He said “It has been sweet and sour as usual with life. Ten years of marriage, that’s ten years of plenty sweet and plenty sour. But somehow because of that friendship, that bonding, we have managed to weather the storm and still stay friends, which is very important. Which is why I said this time we must leave everything at home, and come here and spend quality time with the family.”
According to Fred friendship is very important in marriage “Friendship, communication. Love grows from friendship. Love doesn’t come. what’s love? Love must grow from friendship. You cannot just see somebody and say I love this person, wetin you love? There must be a connection and it is that connection that is friendship before it develops into what is deeper which is love and love has its own levels. The love that boyfriend and girlfriend experience may not necessary be the same love a boyfriend and a girlfriend with one kid will experience. And then down the line, marriage now brings its own, marriage now unites two families and you know, love just starts to develop different meanings, and you now begin to realize that tolerance is a major part of love. And that’s another ball game altogether.”
Fred Amata is a top player in Nollywood and he is proud of that. For a time though, the travails of his marriage to television presenter, Agatha, made them darlings of the soft-sell magazines for all the wrong reasons.
Their eventual separation seemed to cool speculations down, though they were riled again when rumours surfaced of his romance with actress, Ibinabo Febresima. But don’t you dare call him a divorcee or you injure his sensibility, scare the hell out of him and get an unsolicited lecture in English language register.
When we recently asked how he came to be divorced from his wife he exclaimed, “see the word, d-i-v-o-r-c-e-e, that word is not synonymous with me.
I did not say I am a divorcee. I said I am separated.” You wonder the difference since the best dictionary is still unable to segregate completely the two words- separated and divorcee except that divorce (e) technically allows you to remarry. Not withstanding the constraint, Fred says he has started a new romance.
If you think this information has opened up a new vista or line of questioning, one you probe by trying to know who she is and whether the romance will lead to marriage, you get the shocker of your life. Your probing mind is sadly restrained with that reporter’s waterloo.
“No comment,” he says and it came with the finality of a judge’s gavel.
Family of actors
He would rather readily tell you that acting runs in their blood from his father who, according to him, produced the first colour film ever shot in Nigeria and Africa in 1957 down to the youngest Amata still in her mother’s womb. The theatre and what goes on in it, he enthused, is neither new nor strange to the Amatas. But another thing he does very well which is probably not known to most of his fans is that he plays football, though not necessarily in the mode of J.J Okocha, or Kanu Nwankwo. Still he boasted he would have been in the same category with the two if he had pursued the calling instead of his sojourn in Nollywood. Nonetheless, he revealed that his club-All Stars International- is the first club to produce a governor- elect in the person of Barrister Tunde Fashola of Lagos State.
Fred the footballer
“It will interest you to know that my club is the first football club to produce a governor-elect in Lagos state. Barrister Tunde Fashola is actually my team mate. We played football together both in Nigeria and Ghana.”
That lost love is the opportunity cost for choosing acting. And he has made good for himself as well as for the Amatas in the choosing profession.
The Isoko born actor who won the Best Actor award in 1997 for his role in Mortal Inheritance had garnered a lot of other awards and several nominations in the past in supporting actor role and directing category. He speaks fervently about acting, his first love and would refuse to subscribe to the view or opinion that standards and quality of the Nollywood product is falling. Rather, he would tell you to assess Nollywood from the perspective of the few core professionals who, according to him, had cornered a lot of awards locally and internationally.
“It is this same category of players that will inherit the industry after the ‘come easy- go easy’ majority sojourners must have been choked off. There is what I have called over the years a quagmire of mediocrities- a gathering of mediocres in Nollywood. But then there’s also a handful of thorough professionals and that handful are growing and the quality of the films they are making is actually of international standard. And these are the people who are going to shape the industry and remove the chaff from the wheat -the true professionals will stay.”
But he equally admitted that somehow, quality is dropping not necessarily as a result of professional incompetence or inadequacy on the part of the players but a drop induced by the dynamics of business survival. Most producers and directors, he reveals, are constrained to compromise quality because of lack of adequate financing in the industry.
The theatre graduate of the University of Jos is equally a family man. He tells you excitedly that he loves cooking especially Egusi soup and that he readily cooks for his family.