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Goldbacher grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb in the London Borough of Barnet, the daughter of an Italian Sephardic Jewish father, a fruit importer, and a Protestant mother, who was a native of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Her mother converted to Judaism when Goldbacher was a year old. Goldbacher's father was a Holocaust survivor. Goldbacher grew up as a Reform Jew. She said she encountered some anti-semitism growing up.
In 2001, she released her second film, Me Without You, which starred Anna Friel and Michelle Williams and was written by Goldbacher and Laurence Coriat. The movie had been in development before The Governess, but funding came earlier for the other film. Me Without You explores the "over-intense" relationship between two teenage girls. The film was loosely based upon a childhood friendship she had when she was younger. Both films featured Jewish characters and themes.
In 2016, Goldbacher directed an episode of the TV series Endeavour, set in 1967. Also in 2016, she directed two episodes of the British TV series Victoria. In 2017, she directed an episode of the TV series Anne with an E.
In 2019, Goldbacher directed the four-episode Channel 4 mini-series, The Accident, which was created by and written by Jack Thorne, and is about a small Welsh community and how it copes with a devastating explosion.
In 1999, Goldbacher married writer/producer Peter Salmi. They have one child.
Goldbacher, Sandra; Robinson, Louise (Illustrated by); Salmi, Peter (illustrated by) (2012). Amelia's Inheritance - A girl for all time book. London: Daughters of History Ltd. ISBN9780956720023. OCLC843341997.
Lewin, Judith (2008). "Chapter Seven: Semen, Semolina and Salt Water: The Erotic Jewess in Sandra Goldbacher's The Governess". In Abrams, Nathan (ed.). Jews & Sex. Nothingham: Five Leaves. pp. 88-100. ISBN9781905512348. OCLC487150117.
Meyers, Helene (2008). "Chapter: Educating for a Jewish Gaze: The Close Doubling of Antisemitism and Philosemitism in Sandra Goldbacher's The Governess". In Lassner, Phyllis; Trubowitz, Lara (eds.). Antisemitism and Philosemitism in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Representing Jews, Jewishness, and Modern Culture. Newark: University of Delaware Press. pp. 103-118. ISBN9780874130294. OCLC187417711.