Kira Kovalenko was born on December 12, 1989 in Naltchik, Federal Republic of the Russian Federation, where she grew up. She studied at the Alexander Sokurov Film Atelier at Kabardino-Balkarian State University, where she directed many short films during her academic career. Her feature film debut was with Sofichka, in 2016.

Unclenching the Fists, her second film, was shown at the Cannes Festival 2021, and won the Un Certain Regard award.