Israeli director warned to stay away from Edinburgh

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The Independent Online

The fallout from the Middle East conflict has landed in Edinburgh, threatening to coat this year's film festival in a thick dust of controversy.

The award-winning Israeli film director Yoav Shamir tells me he is considering withdrawing, following pressure from organisers to stay away.

They are concerned about protests outside the UK premiere of his documentary, 5 Days, which chronicles the Israeli retreat from settlements in Gaza.

"It might be in your best interest not to attend the festival this year," they warned in an e-mail last week.

"I'm not sure I'm going to go," Shamir, says from Tel Aviv. "I want to make a stand on this, but there is so much strong feeling at the moment. I don't want to risk myself to physical threats."

Shamir accuses the organisers of wilting to protesters at the first scent of bad publicity - a charge they deny.

He says his film has also been dropped from the festival's educational programme for students. He previously directed Checkpoint, which was critical of the Israeli government.

Zvi Ravner, Israel's deputy ambassador to the UK, attacked the festival's stance as "weird and one-sided", adding: "He is a film director who has nothing to do with our government."

"Our comments have been taken out of context," said a spokesman for the Edinburgh Film Festival. "At the moment we expect him to attend."

And tonight's special guest is ...

Proof, if needed, that the Edinburgh Fringe isn't just a draw for squiffy drama students and leather-elbowed bores.

Over the weekend, one festival show was treated to a surprise appearance by perky pop star Kylie Minogue.

She leapt onstage for the finale of Havana Rumba at the Assembly Rooms. It was a thrill for the salsa audience since Minogue has only recently reappeared in public after her diagnosis with breast cancer last year.

"The director Toby Gough knows Kylie because he directed her sister Dannii in Macbeth at Edinburgh a few years ago," says a spokesman for the venue.

"It was great, she just leapt up on stage and joined in. We weren't expecting it.

"I don't think anyone realised who it was until she started dancing."

Rain (almost) stops play

One critic declares Rain Pryor, the jazz-singing daughter of legendary comedian Richard Pryor, the owner of "an impressive set of lungs that nearly strip the toppings off the pizzas".

So I dread to imagine the verbal salvo she unleashed on her musical director as the two parted ways on Thursday, hours before the start of her Edinburgh show.

"It was really scary," she tells me, pleading "incompatibility" as the reason behind the breakup. "I had less than a day to hire a band."

Fortunately three musicians also playing at the Gilded Balloon Teviot stepped in, taking to the stage without rehearsal.

The audience knew little of the upheaval, apparently. And even if they did, Pryor might do worse than remember her father's line: "I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, 'I wanna grow up and be a critic'."

Too fruity

More strange goings-on at Fruit Towers, home to the eccentrically-run drinks company Innocent Smoothies.

Last weekend, the company held its annual get-together "Fruitstock", a public festival combining music and smoothie tasting.

Before the event, an e-mail was sent out to all staff (or "family") from the company's human resources ("people helpers") department, requesting that workers refrain from any nudity in the VIP marquee.

I'm told the note came after some employees took the company's relaxed office policy a little too literally at last year's gathering.

"We are all about keeping things natural here at Innocent," explains a spokeswoman.

A public-spirited approach

Ping! Raucous whooping greets the arrival of an e-mail from the British Institute of Innkeeping. It's a charming invite for thirsty business and consumer journalists to attend a free pub crawl this Thursday. A double-decker bus will ferry them around Putney and Barnes for an evening of beer tasting, gastro-nosh and live music.

The fun commences 6pm at the White Horse on Parsons Green, Fulham, with a sampling of foreign beers.

A spokesman for the organisers denies that it is a "booze bus". The trip, she says, is to show journalists "the diversity of the pubs, and how you don't have to go out for a piss-up - you can enjoy the pub experience and enjoy your drinks responsibly".

Welcome (and much-needed) advice. All aboard!