"No! Cover your shoulders!" the movie's producer, Omar Zazai Ramin, told her. "Do you want to get us all killed?"
Even for men, filmmaking is often considered base and subversive, said Qayumi, the filmmaker: "Respect for the industry isn't there yet."
Qayumi spoke inside a high-rise construction site, where he was filming "The Road to the Truth," about the April 15 attack on Kabul's diplomatic zone by insurgents firing from an unfinished high-rise. The docu-drama's stars are the actual Afghan rapid response police who fought the attackers. One officer flung stones at rubber-neckers who gathered too close to the set.
Western-raised Afghans like Qayumi and Kazemi, who plans to stay here for a year, want to show that cinema can honor Afghan culture by creating admirable, nuanced characters. They resent the insipid Indian, Turkish and Iranian dramas that dominate Afghan TV and overshadow locally made productions.
"Every nation needs its storytellers," Qayumi said. "Afghans are working to heal their country — police, doctors, soldiers. What we're doing is building heroes."
Kazemi met Qayumi when he sought Afghan American actresses while completing his master's degree in screenwriting at UCLA. She won the role of the Afghan wife of an Afghan immigrant hounded in Los Angeles by a female American soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kazemi said she persuaded Qayumi to make her character — a traditional wife — stronger and more willful. She lobbied for and won a fleeting scene in which she and her husband kiss in the movie, "Targeting," a psychological thriller written by Qayumi.
Qayumi said he gave Kazemi the part because "she has a certain fire in her. She brought a lot of energy to the role."
One cold evening in Kabul, at a private club on a trash-strewn dirt street, "Targeting" was screened on a swatch of white cloth tacked to a brick wall. Qayumi, wearing a "Rambo III" T-shirt, propped the projector on a napkin box.
The audience represented a slice of Kabul's young, hip, urbane milieu. The dominant language was English with smatterings of Dari. Kazemi sat up front, well dressed and elegantly coiffed.
In the film, Kazemi's character spoke in Dari and English. The wife is respectful but bold enough to argue with her husband. In a brief long shot, they kiss. When the credits rolled, everyone applauded and whistled. Kazemi and Qayumi rose to answer audience questions.
Kazemi had a question of her own. "I don't know if everybody caught the kiss — did you?" she said. "I hope so. It's very important."