In the middle of the fake souk in the hotel complex where the Dubai International Film Festival is based, there is a Santa's grotto blaring out Frosty The Snowman.

Given the temperature is up to 28 degrees centigrade even in December, it is a surreal setting - perfect, in fact, for discussions about the state of the film market.

Dubai fits the bill in other ways for the now obligatory economic chit-chat. The days when one flew to the state hoping for bags of oil money are disappearing fast. Oil prices have collapsed and there's even a property downturn affecting the incomplete skyscrapers that stand like half-built death stars against the desert sky.

Nowhere is immune from a global downturn but what gives film its surreal edge is that its misfortunes, in contrast to so many other businesses, aren't coming in battalions.

Film time, like dog years, is out of kilter with the world. It takes a while for financial problems to work their way through a system that takes so long from concept to box office. For some, the timing of the crash has not affected projects already in the can. Given the over-supply of product in the market, there's still some slack in the system before the real pain comes.

It's important to take advantage of the timing to press that sense of forward momentum. This week's review of 2008 (see p6) talks about the year as a reality check, but for those starting out in the business the reality has never been an easy ride.

For the majority of film-makers or producers, and particularly those starting out, the news that it is going to be hard to find finance or to break into mainstream money-making is not going to come as a shock. The African and Arab first-time film-makers at Dubai had little expectation of instant success. What they had was a sense of mission.

Those privileged to talk to students or new film-making groups will recognise that armour-plated optimism. There has been no time in the history of film where a mathematical assessment of the odds of success looked anything other than grim.

For those in the higher echelons of the business, economic realities have indeed come crashing in. But at the other end of the scale, it is the refusal to accept reality that drives people to success.

The business is still attracting people from comfortable positions in law or finance to pursue a dream. It's not in the queues at the box office that we should seek the positives for the coming year but in those who seek to reshape the industry in their image.

A meeting in the UK organised by Film London for black film-makers provided a great example of the kind of inspiration the business needs.

The delegates heard a very frank and fair assessment from the industry about why it was hard to get films of black origin distributed in the UK. They were told about the need for distributors to have a track record on which to base a judgment of market potential. Films that did not stack up when put through the computer didn't make the cut.

And the response was not to shrug the shoulders and accept that what they heard was just the way things were. The likelihood of an even more risk-averse system adding to the problems was not going to finish off their ambition. And the talk about the failure to find business models for new-media exploitation was not an acceptance that no such models existed.

This is Barack Obama's 'yes we can' era. And given the return of oratory, forgive the borrowing of a line from Robert Kennedy, who was killed 40 years ago this year: 'Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why'' Some men dream things that never were and say, 'Why not.''

Today's problems are easy to see, but there are audiences that want content and great people desperate to deliver it. That's not a bad basis for positive change.

And to finish off, Screen International wishes you all a very happy new year.