In a stirring plea to the international community at the weekend, one of the women journalists behind the documentary Afghanistan Unveiled used the film's world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival to urge for more aid work in the war-torn country.

"The international aid organisations need to extend their coverage so that it is not just in Kabul but in the provinces of Afghanistan," Mary Ayubi, a 26-year-old journalist and camera operator on Brigitte Briault's stunning film, said on Oct 4.

"Without this there will be terrible problems in our country and people will continue to suffer." In her first trip abroad, Ayubi said wider support was critical to help Afghans restore stability and improve the plight of women, whose appalling treatment at the hands of the ousted Taliban regime provided the focus of the film.

Under the auspices of the Asia Foundation and the Afghan Media and Culture Centre, Ayubi and a group of young women were the first female journalists to be trained in Afghanistan in more than a decade.

Using digital camera equipment, the women braved checkpoints, threats and cultural indignation as they toured the country to document genocide and other human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime.

Interviews revealed systematic torture and expulsion in many of the vast country's provinces, with one tribe of women forced to dwell in caves after Taliban officers slaughtered their husbands.

In one of the most moving scenes in the 52-minute film, a woman privately despairs over her arranged marriage to a military commander and says she will never be allowed to pursue her dream of studying.

The woman's safety is one reason why the film-makers said it would be impolitic to screen Afghanistan Unveiled in their home country.

Others scenes certain to stir controversy include several of the journalists riding horses and a partly uncovered woman's leg - both cultural taboos in the male-dominated society.

"The people in Afghanistan are very happy that the Americans collapsed the Taliban," Ayubi added. "But they don't want Americans to stay."

Speaking occasionally with the help of an interpreter, Ayubi said women's rights and living conditions were improving under the current government of Hamid Karzai.

"The government has enlisted the help of some women to draw up the new constitution and I am confident this will help." The 26th Mill Valley Film Festival opened in California on Oct 2 and runs until Oct 12.