Film Club: ‘The Benevolents’

What does it mean to be a good listener?

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Volunteers at a Montreal call center train to be an ear for a lonely society.CreditCredit...Sarah Baril Gaudet

Note to Teachers: Please preview the film to make sure it is appropriate for your students. It includes discussions of grief, distress and suicide.

The Benevolents” is a 16-minute film that touches on themes of loneliness, despair and connection. It is an intimate and moving portrait of volunteers at a Montreal call center who are training to be an ear for a lonely society. Sarah Baril Gaudet, the filmmaker, writes of her purpose in making the short documentary: “We live in an epidemic of loneliness, and the importance of vigilant ears cannot be overstated.” Do you agree? Do you believe we are in an epidemic of isolation and loneliness? Do we need to become better listeners?

What does it mean to be an empathetic listener? Are you a good listener? Have you ever felt truly listened to by someone else? What is the power of listening to others — their lives, their joys, their sorrows?


1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.

2. After watching, think about these questions:

  • What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

  • Were there any surprises? Anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew?

  • What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

  • What questions do you still have?

  • What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

3. An additional challenge | Respond to the essential question at the top of this post: What does it mean to be a good listener?

4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

6. To learn more, read “In a Lonely World, They’re Here to Listen.” Ms. Gaudet, the filmmaker, writes:

I remember feeling very alone when I moved to Montreal in 2013. Moving about the city, I also felt the loneliness in the strangers around me. The harm isolation does to our mental well-being is well documented, but in a world full of people, finding someone to emotionally connect with seems like an impossible task.

Two years ago, as the pandemic caused even more isolation, I discovered Tel-Aide Montreal, a call center with the mission to listen without judgment to those who need to talk. From my first meeting with the organization’s volunteers, I was struck by their capacity to listen to others with great care and empathy.

This short documentary captures what it means to be in a position of empathetic listening, as the volunteers work through the different learning stages of their training. We live in an epidemic of loneliness, and the importance of vigilant ears cannot be overstated.

Want more student-friendly videos? Visit our Film Club column.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.