His film, "The Lives of Others," is the first drama to delve into the way the Stasi, the East German police, spied on ordinary citizens during communism.
The film has been hugely successful in Germany, and is receiving acclaim from U.S. critics. It opens in the Twin Cities this weekend.
Von Donnersmarck is in the U.S. to attend the Oscar ceremony, where "Lives of Others" is up for Best Foreign Language award.
Von Donnersmarck told MPR's Euan Kerr his film resonates with people because it's about invasion of privacy.