You need a great deal of luck to become a movie star, wherever you are in the world. But the stars of Afghanistan's screens need to be lucky every day of their lives - especially once they've made a name for themselves. Death threats and harassment are a fact of life for Afghan filmmakers. This is the world's toughest movie industry, and it takes serious courage to be part of it.
'Every day when I go out I don't believe I'll be making it back home to my family alive,' says Saba Sahar - actress, screenwriter and Afghanistan's first-ever female film director. 'But if I die for asking for my rights and inspiring other women to fight for theirs, then I'm ready to lose my life.'
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they proclaimed that films and music led to 'moral corruption' and banned them in any form. Any woman deemed to be on public display could expect to be flogged, imprisoned or worse. When the Taliban fell in 2001, Afghan filmmakers started working again, cautiously, with little funding, poor equipment and hardly any female actresses prepared risk appearing on screen. In 2012, two different Afghanistans co-exist, uneasily: a new generation fighting for a more liberal and open future, and a strict, conservative Afghanistan willing to punish any behaviour they consider un-Islamic.
In a country where women are still rarely seen in public and only 12 per cent can read, Saba is certainly no ordinary Afghan woman. On the morning I met her, she was striding through thick snow in shiny high-heeled boots, commanding her film crew with complete authority, her sparkling blue eyeshadow glinting in the cold sunlight. She radiates Hollywood glamour, Kabul-style.
Like most Afghan films, Saba's movies are low budget, high-octane action pieces, often with brash sound effects, hammy performances and clunky dialogue, shot by crews with little or no training, for TV or DVD release. But her all films contain a message - that women are capable of anything men can do, that the rule of law should be respected, and that Afghans should be proud of their country.
The death threats began a few years ago. An anonymous man bombarded her with calls for several months, saying he was going to murder her in public if she didn't stop working. Now she's used to working with a bodyguard and police protection. She's been shunned by her wider family, who are uneasy about her career, and recently became separated from her husband and four children. All just so she can give her fellow Afghans some home-grown entertainment and a bit of escapism. How can it be worth such sacrifice?
'Because of love,' she tells me. 'Making movies is my love. And I love my country. I want to show people that there's more to Afghanistan than fighting, drugs and terrorism.'
My director Andrew Lang and I had a taste of the challenges Saba faces while we were trying to capture her work on film. We could never forget we were filing in a warzone. We weren't able to film openly in some areas for more than 15 minutes at a time for fear of drawing unwanted attention to ourselves. We travelled everywhere with a back-up car at the ready so we wouldn't be stranded if our vehicle broke down. The sound of helicopters whirring overhead interrupted our filming. And it was just a fraction of what Saba and her fellow filmmakers have to put up with every working day.
But Saba's bravery and tenacity could be for nothing. Perhaps the saddest thing I discovered in Afghanistan was how resigned Afghans are to the return of the Taliban, even after ten years of war. Everyone I spoke to in Kabul was convinced the country would once again become a conservative Islamic state as soon as international forces leave in 2014. Even if Afghanistan's filmmakers survive the death threats, their industry might not exist in two years' time.
Saba prefers not to think that far ahead. Instead, she's focusing on her next project - a film about the Taliban. 'I'm aiming that it will get prizes at Cannes and the Oscars,' she tells me. 'I'm not sure whether I'll be alive or not after I make that film. But with God's help, I will.'