By Dominique Claire Shuminova
Actor John Palomino was born and raised in New Rochelle and played varsity football at New Rochelle High School, graduating in 2005. His first film, Man of the House – which he wrote, directed, shot, and produced through his company, Mistaken Identity Films, in association with Collin Chiacchini of LGM – is premiering at The Picture House in Pelham on May 6th at 4.30pm.
“John has a great future ahead of him,” his cousin and co-producer, Tracy Wilder – who plays his grandmother, Brenda Flowers in the film – tells The Pelham Post. “I’m so glad I was able to help bring this family story to life.”
Palomino’s cousin Kiara Flowers plays his aunt Nakia Flowers in the movie, and Kevin Rodriguez, his 8-year-old cousin, plays little Johnny, while Palomino himself plays his father, John J. Palomino Sr., a New Rochelle fire fighter who first came to the U.S. from Colombia in the 1960s when his father was recruited to play for a soccer team in Miami.
“I remember when Johnny, Hugo, and Elmo – those were the three brothers – moved into the building down the street,” recalls Beaumont Sonberg. “This is about 1970. It was an exciting time. We took the bus to school together. We would play my building against their building, brothers against friends, football or stickball, lots of sports.”
Palomino muses, “It’s crazy how there are some things you’ll never forget. It doesn’t matter how young you are or how long ago it happened. I remember the time we went to Disneyland, or the time I was too afraid to get on the King Kong and Jaws rides at Universal Studios, going to his job at the fire station in New Rochelle, when he taught me how to ride a bike, playing with the Super Soaker water guns in the house, and all the Ninja Turtle toys he used to get me. I think of these memories almost everyday. I’ll never forget certain things we did, or even the day of the funeral, and how much my mom was crying.”
“My father took his own life July 6, 1993, a month before my 6th birthday. He was 30 years old when he died, and I will be 30 later this year. I wish I could have seen or experienced certain things with him, I wish I could go grab a beer with him. Portraying him was by far one of the hardest things I ever had to do. It was very emotional. It took some time and there were some very tough days on set re-enacting certain scenes but making this film definitely helped with the healing process.”
On average a New Yorker dies from suicide every 5 hours.
“As hard as it was for my mother, she remained stable and strong enough to do a wonderful job raising my sister and I,” Palomino continues, “and we had my grandparents around to help out a lot, and my aunts and uncle. It was a tough few years, but we had the support system, and today I’m strong enough to tell my story and hopefully help someone.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in New York for ages 15-34, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“From the high school guys that we went to school with, the classes of ‘80 and ‘81, there are a lot of people who are not here anymore, a lot of casualties from that,” reflects Sonberg. “It was a rough time in New Rochelle.”
Representatives from The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Westchester, The Mental Health Association of Westchester, and The Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health will attend the premiere.
“I am honored to be a part of the project,” says Wilder, “Especially since I knew his dad. If this film can help just one person who has contemplated suicide, then I feel like we did our job as storytellers.”
Three other members of Man of the House’s cast and crew have also been directly affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide. There will be a Q&A with the cast and crew following the film premiere, in which they will discuss the impact suicide has had on them and what it was like to work on Man of the House. Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.eventbrite.com.
“It’s hard for people to reach out for help because they don’t want to be judged or ridiculed. Sometimes the signs are right there, so we need to be more aware,” cautions Palomino, “and take it seriously if someone says that they’re depressed or have thoughts of suicide. Life is already really short so you have to appreciate the time you have here. Enjoy life as much as you can. Appreciate your loved ones. Show your family that you love them as much as you can. You don’t know what other people are going through, so be kind and help other people, and don’t be so quick to judge.”
John Palomino is currently in post-production on his documentary, Love in Cali, which is about his experiences in Cali, Colombia, meeting his father’s side of the family for the first time.
@johnpalom on Instagram
American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: afsp.org