Kantemir was born in Nalchik, Russia, in a family, unrelated to cinematography. Since childhood, Kantemir watched a lot of mainstream movies, and at the age of 18 began to create his own small videos. Then, together with friends in Nalchik, he shot an Internet series with episodes of 10 minutes each. He didn't originally plan to pursue a career of a filmmaker, but decided to apply for the cinema workshop, led by Alexander Sokurov at the Kabardino-Balkarian University. During his studies he made several fiction and documentary films. Some of Balagov’s short films were shown at the 67th Locarno Film Festival. In 2017, he made his debut as a director with the feature film Closeness in the program Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, where he received the prize FIPRESCI. In 2019, Balagov received the Cannes Best Director Award and FIPRESCI prize for the film Beanpole, which was presented in the program Un Certain Regard.