Shai Avivi is in Cannes for the Critics’ Week world premiere of “One Week and a Day,” from debuting helmer-writer Asaph Polonsky. His stellar turn as a grieving father unwilling to observe social niceties combines humor and poignancy.

Born in Acre, one of the oldest cities in the world, Avivi studied producing and directing at Tel Aviv University’s Dept. of Film & Television, but wound up acting in most of his classmates’ short projects. After graduation, he became part of the hugely successful satirical sketch show “The Chamber Quintet.” TV series followed, making him a household name.

Avivi, who loves to cook, won the 2015 celebrity season of Israel’s “MasterChef,” creating only vegetarian dishes. “It was a great experience to be on TV and not act,” he says. In addition to film roles in features and shorts, Avivi writes and performs a stage show with his wife, comprising bittersweet sketches about their married life called “Happily Ever After.” They are aiming to bring it to Los Angeles. He’s an activist for animal rights and green causes. Moreover, he’s an artist painting on wood he finds in the trash.

“I can write a book about how great he is,” says helmer-writer Dror Shaul, who directed him in the hits “Sweet Mud” and “Atomic Falafel.” “Shai is one of the most interesting and unexpected actors I’ve worked with. You just give him his goal and obstacle and he’ll surprise you and himself all the way up the hill. His performance is so unique it creates many fights in editing room for ‘what not to use.’”

Avivi says, “Last month I finished director Savi Gabizon’s new film, and I am curious as to what will be the next adventure.”
— Alissa Simon