Saodat Ismailova was born in 1981 in Tashkent. She graduated from the Faculty of Film Directing and Television at the State Institute of Arts in Tashkent. In 1999, she won the Grand Prix of the Tashkent Student Film Festival with her first short film. In 2002, Ismailova was invited to study at the Centre for the Study of Arts Factory in Treviso. In 2004, her documentary Aral. Fishing in an Invisible Sea won a prize for the best picture at the Turin Film Festival. From 2004 to 2010, Saodat Ismailova created 10 documentary films about the music of Central Asia, released by the Smithsonian Institute, USA.
In 2010, Ismailova studied screenwriting and directing art at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, USA. Her feature film, 40 Days of Silence in 2014 was nominated as the best debut film at the International Film Festival in Berlin and won awards at other international festivals. In 2013, Ismailova presented her first video installation Zukhra at the Central Asia Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia.
From 2015 to 2017, Saodat Ismailova studied at the National Center for Contemporary Art Le Fresnoy in Paris. In 2017 her solo exhibition dedicated to the Turan tiger The Haunted was held at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Tromso, Norway. In 2018, Saodat implemented cross-disciplinary project Qyrq Qyz, premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, USA and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
In 2022 Ismailova participated in the Milk of Dreams, the main exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia and documenta fifteen. Her works are in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.