But the eyes of Afghan men and boys follow her footfalls. One man told his friends after watching Kazemi walk to the serial set: "She should be beaten."
"Fereshta needs to be careful," said Tarique Qayumi, 37, an Afghan Canadian filmmaker here who cast her in an Afghan-themed movie shot in California. "She's very aggressive and a total feminist, and that's good. But it can be dangerous here."
Other Afghan friends have warned her: "They tell me, do not show 1 inch of skin, Fereshta," she said in her rapid-fire, New York-inflected diction.
But other Afghans have thanked her for championing actresses as artists and even patriots. "One guy, a security guard, saw me and smiled," she said. "He said, 'nooshe jan-et' — enjoy deeply — like, look at this crazy girl, no head cover, smoking, just going her own way.''
Reviving Afghan film
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Afghan cinema was modern and vibrant. Kazemi's documentary follows Maimoona Ghezal, an Afghan actress in her 60s who was a glamorous star of the era.
"I worked in cinema then, and I remember all the women's gorgeous legs — I'm hungry for all that again," said Rakab, the director.
Sadam Niko, 21, who plays Kazemi's love interest in the serial, "Kocha-e-Ma" (Our Street), said of his costar: "I think she's so brave." If the war ever ends, he said, "All these problems will just go away."
Kazemi is living temporarily with relatives in a conservative neighborhood where most women wear burkas. She refuses to wear even a head scarf.
"I respect the traditions of being covered, but I will not cover my hair. I won't," she said.
The men in the shop next to her relatives' house gossip about her, she said, and stare as she strolls past. Her male cousins insist on escorting her every time she walks to find a taxi.
One cousin told her that he would be shamed and would deny he was her relative if she appears on the TV serial. When she told him to have courage, he said it was about honor, not courage.
"He told me: 'You'll be considered a prostitute,'" she said. "The value of a female is directly connected to male honor. Her reputation — how she looks and behaves in public — is all that matters. And it's all tied to sexuality."
When Kazemi mentioned to her aunt that she plans to find her own apartment, she was told that she would first need her parents' permission.
This is true, said Kazemi's mother, who lives with Fereshta's father in the Bay Area. Kazemi asked that her mother's name not be published because she has worked in Afghanistan as a translator for American troops.
Parents had other ideas
Kazemi's parents are classic immigrant strivers who wanted their daughter to become a doctor. Both are professionals who fled Afghanistan after Fereshta's father was put on a death list by the communist government, Kazemi said. The family lived in Thailand before moving to New York when Kazemi was 6.
Even as a child, Kazemi wanted to be an actress, her mother said. "She always told me: 'One day, I'll go back to Afghanistan and change things,'" she said.
The other day, Kazemi was trying on a wedding dress for a movie role as an Afghan woman married in a village. She playfully suggested that she discard the wedding cloak and instead bare her shoulders.